Four California National Parks rank among some of the worst for air quality in the nation, according to a new report card released by a conservation group Tuesday.
Despite overall progress in the quality of air across the nation’s national parks, places where millions of families travel to escape the city air, hazy and polluted air continued to plague the skies, especially during the summer season, according to the report by the National Parks Conservation Assn.
Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and Yosemite National Park all received ‘F’ grades for their ozone levels and low scores for air visibility.
The California parks were among some of the most harmed by air pollution, according to the report’s list of top 12 parks affected by pollution.
All 12 parks on the list earned a ‘D’ in either the ‘healthy air’, ‘seeing clearly’, or ‘changing climates’ categories. Because of the hazy air, visitors often miss out on up to 50 miles of scenery.
For at least one month a year, visitors to the four California parks breathe air that is unhealthy for most visitors and rangers, the report found. The California parks were the only ones in the top 12 to receive ‘F’ grades for air quality.
“The overwhelming evidence reveals air that is cleaner but not yet clean,” according to the report.
But cleaning up the air pollution could take hundreds of years at the current pace of change, researchers said, citing loopholes in current legislation and climate change.
Nearly all parks are undergoing some degree of warming, researchers found in their report.
More than 80 percent of the temperatures in those parks are considered “extremely hot” compared to the last 112 years. Thirty percent of those parks have reached the highest temperatures they have seen on record, researchers found, and if those temperatures continue to rise, they will be climbing into uncharted territory.
To ameliorate the problem, researchers suggested allowing parks to set their own air quality targets, closing loopholes in current regulations, strengthening accountability and allowing park managers to play a greater role in creating and advancing plans.
Nine California national parks were named in the full list of 48 parks affected by air pollution.