Grand Canyon National Park
About the Park
Grand Canyon National Park encompasses 1,218,375 acres and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. The land is semi-arid and consists of raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwestern United States. Drainage systems have cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins. The Park contains several major ecosystems. The Park also serves as an ecological refuge, with relatively undisturbed remnants of dwindling ecosystems (such as boreal forest and desert riparian communities). It is home to numerous rare, endemic (found only at Grand Canyon), and specially protected (threatened/endangered) plant and animal species.
Increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns may alter the park’s ecosystems, changing vegetation communities, habitats available for species, and the experience of park visitors. Possible challenges associated with global climate change to Grand Canyon ecosystems are migrations of vegetation and wildlife to new habitats, habitat fragmentation, occurrence of more frequent or intense droughts, increases in insect populations due to longer frost-free seasons, increase in frequency and intensity of wildfires and floods, and changes to water flows in the Colorado River. Challenges to cultural resources and infrastructure may occur from increased flooding, rockslides, wildfires, and heavy, seasonal storms. Potential exists for increases to air pollution, as well as energy requirements for seasonal air conditioning or heating. Finally, park operations will be affected through demand increases for emergency services due to heat-related illness, wildfires, and flooding.
Grand Canyon National Park has already contributed to improving the environment through implementation of a variety of programs and projects. Sustainable operational practices implemented include the transition to an alternative-fuel/hybrid fleet, photovoltaic panels at the primary visitor center, an extensive recycling program, employing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building practices for new structures, “Green” purchasing, and an extensive mass transit shuttle system that utilizes clean alternative fuel.
This Action Plan identifies further steps that Grand Canyon National Park can take to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to current and future impacts of climate change. The plan presents the Park’s GHG emission reduction goals, and associated reduction actions and adaptation strategies to achieve the Park’s goals.
In 2008, GHG emissions within Grand Canyon National Park totaled 55,471 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E). This includes emissions from park and concessioner operations and visitor activities, including vehicle use within the park. For perspective, a typical single family home in the U.S. produces approximately 11 MTCO2E per year (U.S. EPA, Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculators – Calculations and References, Retrieved. Website: http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html). Thus, the combined emissions from park and concessioner operations, and visitor activities within the park, are roughly equivalent to the emissions from the electricity use of 7,694 households each year.
The largest emission sector for Grand Canyon National Park is energy, totaling 30,955 MTCO2E. Purchased electricity comprises 63% of emissions from energy, and 35% of the park’s overall emissions. Much of the purchased electricity in the park is used by concessioners. Emissions from park operations, which exclude emissions from visitor and concessioner activities, totaled 15,985 MTCO2E. Similar to total park emissions, park operations emissions were mainly comprised of emissions from energy sources, totaling 1,208 MTCO2E (70%).
The graph below, taken from our Action Plan, shows our baseline emissions in 2008 broken down into sectors.
Grand Canyon National Park 2008 Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector
Grand Canyon National Park has committed to:
- Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from park operations by 30 percent below 2008-level by the year 2020.
- Plan and implement measures that best allow the Park’s natural and cultural resources to adapt to the impacts of climate change.