Hey, Climate Change Deniers: California Wildfires Are Worse Than Ever

California wildfires are still raging. Hundreds of families have recently lost their homes, at least five people are dead, thousands of acres have been destroyed, while ancient sequoias remain in jeopardy.

Twelve separate fires burned the state, and here’s the latest update on the larger ones as of Friday, Sept. 18:

  • Valley Fire: 73,700 acres burned; 585 homes destroyed; 7,473 structures threatened; 40 percent contained; 3 killed;
  • Butte Fire: 70,760 acres burned; 365 homes destroyed; 6,400 structures threatened; 55 percent contained; 2 killed;
  • Rough Fire: 141,036 acres burned, 67-percent contained.

Things are heading in the right direction in terms of containing the wildfires, and tremendous efforts are being made to help those people who lost their homes and see to the needs of animals who were left behind in all the mayhem.

Hopefully before long, the fires will be out for good, but what about the next fire? And the one after that? It’s illogical to assume that fires this bad won’t happen again and again. It’s not a question of if, but when, the next disastrous wildfire will strike California and other wildfire-prone areas. (Of course, California isn’t the only place contending with wildfires.)

Fueled by California’s four-year drought, beyond fighting the flames, we need to be thinking long-term and cut to the root of the problem here; that problem is climate change.

Back in July we told you about a study published in Nature Communications that says we can expect more wildfire woes because of climate change, and that, “This isn’t only California’s problem — it’s a global problem.”

Researchers pulled data from 1979 to 2013 and determined that there’s an 18.7 percent increase in fire season length across the globe, and between 1996 and 2013, there’s been a “53.4 percent increase in the frequency of long fire seasons.”

Another study, published in July, analyzed data spanning 105 years and found that drought and climate change are increasingly fueling high-elevation California fires, “which historically have seldom burned.”

Yikes, that’s not good.

Mark Schwartz, director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at UC Davis and lead investigator of the study, said, “The increase of higher-elevation forest fires is yet another harbinger of climate change,” adding, “With California currently in the midst of a four-year drought, low snowpack in the mountains and related forest stress are further increasing the chances of large, destructive fires that move high into the Sierra.”

The researchers also revealed that warming temperatures associated with climate change might be increasing tree density in the high forests that builds up the amount of fuel in those forests while reducing its moisture content. So not only is climate change making wildfires worse — wildfires are also making climate change worse. Grist explains, “The fires, worsened by climate change, then hasten climate change by spewing carbon into the atmosphere in amounts that can be more than half of what we humans generate by burning fossil fuels.”

Canada has its fair share of wildfires too, but Canadian physician Dr. Courtney Howard has a prescription:

“Climate action. We know that 80 per cent of economic reserves need to be left underground to avoid runaway climate change. A group of 60 Canadian academics from across the country say that Canada could achieve 100 per cent renewable energy by 2035 and decrease our greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by mid-century. What is missing is the social and political will to get us there.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

In Northern California where I live, drought has transformed parts of it into a perfect breeding ground for wildfires. My dear friend’s family lost their house last week in Lake County, and like many, my heart aches over the devastation these wildfires are causing.

Let these fires not burn in vain, but rather, serve as a wake-up call that there’s a direct correlation between wildfires and climate change, and that it’s way past time for us all to figure out what significant changes we can make to address this root problem, and demand that our elected officials implement policies that seek solutions.

But first we require the social and political will to get us there, as Dr. Howard so eloquently put it.

California Governor Brown has acknowledged the fact that climate change and drought are contributing to the state’s extreme fires, warning in a press conference recently, “This is the future.” Meanwhile, as California burned last Wednesday, 16 Republican presidential candidates debated, nearly all of them climate change deniers, and during the 150 minute show (a fitting word), Mother Jones counted only about four minutes when the topic of climate change was discussed.

Four minutes.

Do we really need reminding that without a planet, nothing else matters?

So where do we go from here? In the long-term, we should be focusing on the root of the problem — climate change – and deny the deniers by not voting them into office.

What else can we do? Share your thoughts in the comments.

In the meantime, here’s more about what you can do to help those impacted by the California wildfires:

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

105 comments

B B
B B4 months ago

Thanks for writing!

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris4 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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Shae Lee
Shae Lee4 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Shae Lee
Shae Lee4 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Peggy B
Peggy B4 months ago

And it is even worse since the date of this article.

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Ann B
Ann B4 months ago

and Trump just cancelled any help to California????

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Lesa D
Past Member 4 months ago

if they only had a rake... insert >eye roll

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Emma L
Past Member 4 months ago

thanks for this

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Marija M
Marija Mohoric4 months ago

So very sad...

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney5 months ago

Very sad Thank you for caring and sharing

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