On a sunny day in June, flash floods roared through Yellowstone National Park, forcing more than 10,000 visitors to be evacuated. While no one was harmed, the scene was dramatic -- "roads and bridges washed away, sewage lines broke, and the park's gateway communities were cut off from roads." While scientists were initially shocked, now they say similar events will become more likely as temperatures warm.
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In the face of climate change, national organizations have begun to plan for rapidly changing conditions. Compared to other federal agencies, Yellowstone National Park was ahead of the curve -- or so they thought. Even the most prepared federal agency didn't expect roads, bridges, and houses getting washed away. "It's those unexpected and oftentimes worse than the worst case projected scenarios that we are starting to see," said Bruce Stein, chief scientist of the National Wildlife Federation, collaborated with the Park Service on a 2021 climate planning report.
The impact of extreme climate change is escalating. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report shows that countries like the U.S. are most responsible for emissions. The U.S. has a responsibility to create more ambitious climate action plans to eliminate emissions and pull more carbon from their atmosphere. If Congress doesn't pass aggressive climate action, climate risks like the Yellowstone floods will continue, and risk of climate-related mass death and suffering will keep rising.
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