Friday, August 9, 2013

Dangerous Fire

It's happening yet again. We're seeing more warning signs. Last month, we saw wildfires emerge on both ends of Nevada. And now, we have a dangerous fire burning near Palm Springs, California.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) now lives in that region. She spoke with local media yesterday about witnessing the fire from her house. And she spoke about the dangerous dynamics behind this dangerous fire.

And she's onto something. We've been witnessing a growing and alarming body of evidence demonstrating how climate change is changing the natural ebb and flow of wildfires. And thanks to both climate inaction and ridiculous fiscal austerity policies, we're not as prepared to fight these fires as we should be. This is a problem. And it's one being confirmed by a new study from California's Department of Environmental Protection.

The study, written by 51 scientists, tracked a variety of indicators and found widespread evidence of the toll climate change is taking across the across the state, including more frequent and intense wildfires, rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, warmer lakes and oceans, and hotter temperatures. These ripple effects of these changes threaten communities, industry, public health, and the state’s prized natural resources. “Climate change is not just some abstract scientific debate,” said California EPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez. “It’s real, and it’s already here.”

Californians are already suffering from a growing number of heat-related illnesses and deaths and those figures are projected to rise along with temperatures. The report found that in most regions of the state, warming has accelerated over the past three decades. During the summer, heat extremes have increased and nighttime heat waves have risen across the state. As climate change drives temperatures up, it poses a serious risk to public health. As evidence of this, the report notes that “the July 2006 heat wave, unprecedented in its magnitude and geographic extent, resulted in 140 heat-related deaths in California.” [...]

As with much of the western U.S., California wildfires have grown bigger, stronger and more frequent in recent decades. The report found that annual acreage burned statewide has been steadily increasing and “the three largest fire years occurred in the last ten years.” And the average number of acres scorched every year since 2000 is almost double the average of the previous 50 years — 598,000 acres annually now, compared with 264,000 acres a year then.

Again, we've discussed this many times before. Senator Harry Reid (D-Searchlight) talked about it a year ago. And we're all living through it now.

So what will we do about it? This dangerous fire rages on. And if we don't take action soon, it will consume all of us.

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