Does climate change spell doom for America’s national parks?

For all the climate change deniers and sceptics across the US and indeed the world, it’s a question which is routinely dismissed. But many leading ecologists and scientists involved in climate studies fear that the ever-increasing temperature may put pressure on the US national park service.

The Climate Friendly Parks Program is a subset of the Green Parks plan. It was created in collaboration between the National Park Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The program is meant to measure and reduce greenhouse gases to help slow the effects of climate change. Parks in the CFP program create and implement plans to reduce greenhouse gases through reducing energy and water use. Facilities are designed and retrofitted using sustainable materials.

Alternative transportation systems are developed to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.[103] Parks in the program offer public education programs about how the parks are already affected. The program provides climate friendly solutions to the visiting public, like using clean energy, reducing waste, and making smart transportation choices. The CFP program can provide technical assistance, tools and resources for the parks and their neighboring communities to protect the natural and cultural resources.

The large, isolated parks typically generate their own electricity and heat and must do so without spoiling the values that the visitors have come to experience. Pollution is emitted by the vehicles used to transport visitors around the often-vast expanses of the parks. Many parks have converted vehicles to electric hybrids, and substitute diesel/electric hybrid buses for private automobiles. In 2001 it was estimated that replacement with electric vehicles would eliminate 25 TPY emissions entirely.

In 2010, the National Park Service estimated that reducing bottled water could eliminate 6,000 tons of carbon emissions and 8 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year. The NPS Concessions office voiced concerns about concessions impacts.

By 2014, 23 parks had banned disposable water bottles. In 2015, the International Bottled Water Association stated the NPS was “leaving sugary drinks as a primary alternative”, even though the Park Service provides water stations to refill bottles, “encouraging visitors to hydrate for free.” The Water Association made the national parks one of its top lobbying targets and in July 2015 Rep. Keith Rothfus added a “last-minute” amendment into Congress’s appropriations bill, blocking the National Park Service from funding or enforcing the program. The National Park Service discontinued its ban on disposable water bottles in August 2017.