Climate Change Denial Is Raking the Ashes of Paradise
The Camp and Woolsey fires are two of the 10 worst fires in California history, and have so far caused an estimated $19 billion in damages. Eight of the worst California wildfires on record have happened in the last two years. These disasters are increasing in number and severity due to a collection of factors — 100 years of forest policies aimed at stopping fires entirely rather than controlling them, corporate malfeasance on the part of companies like PG&E, unsafe construction zoning and poor water management, to name but a few — but accelerating human-caused climate change looms above them all.
“The ongoing California drought is the driest period in the state’s history since before Charlemagne ruled the Holy Roman Empire,” reported Science News in 2014. In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown declared California to be in a drought state of emergency. “Drought and dry soil conditions widened to 100 percent of flame-whipped California from 26 percent a year earlier,” Bloomberg News reported this weekend. According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, some 23,824,000 California residents currently live in drought conditions.
“Climate change is drying the state,” states the California Chaparral Institute in a Facebook post. “Dryer conditions lead to a more flammable landscape. We may see more of the kind of winds that powered the Camp Fire into Paradise. More fires will dramatically alter the kinds of habitats we are used to seeing. Non-native weed-filled landscapes that dominate places like Riverside County will likely become more common.”
The ocean is coming. The fires are here. The inexorable violence of climate change has arrived, and the president of the United States still believes it’s a hoax. Because he does, efforts to mitigate the onrushing, inevitable damage are not begun, or are deliberately undone. There is no good time for someone like Donald Trump to be in charge of the country, but there can be no doubt that his ascendancy has come at the worst possible moment for the planet.