Wildfire is the new reality in our world of global warming.
On Wednesday, October 23, 2019, the 2019 wildfire season began in earnest in California. The Kincade fire in the wine country of northern Sonoma County roared across 16,000 acres within hours of igniting.
In the last three days alone 600 wildfires sprang into being in Northern California. Emergency workers struggled to evacuate thousands of people from their homes.
North of Lost Angeles, fire personal evacuated 50,000 people as strong winds whipped fires into the canyons of Santa Clarita. The fire threatened many other homes.
Three years of record breaking-fires that researchers say are likely to continue in a warming world raise an important question: How can we live in this kind of an ecosystem, an ecosystem that can burst into flames at any time. (New York Times)
The answer to this question, say many researchers is that we just have to live with it. This has been going on for quite awhile now and it’s only going to get worse.
Alaska is also burning. Wildfires are a normal part of life in Alaskan forests. Time Magazine said that 2.5 million acres burned this year, compared to 6.5 million acres in 2004.
In his 2019 Book Falter, Bill McKibben agrees. He said wildfire is the new reality. It is just something we are going to have to live with from now on in this new hotter world. And its only going to get worse.
McKibben said that as land warms it dries out and as it dries out it burns. This has resulted in worse and worse forest fire seasons since the 1980s. First there was northern CA and then there was Yellowstone. He said that the “Fire season is on average seventy-eight days longer across the American West than it was in 1970, and in some parts, it essentially never ends; since 2000, more than a dozen U.S. states have reported the largest wildfires in their recorded histories.”
McKibben said that in the past, Australia’s McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index topped out at 100, but that in 2009 after a month or record heat and the lowest rainfall ever measured, the index reached 165 and 173 people died in a blaze that raced through the suburbs.
Today’s weather has created an entirely new category of wild fires. We cannot control these fires by any suppression resources now available anywhere in the world said one Australian researcher.
Juan Cole, a longtime blogger on American politics, agrees that wildfire is the new reality. He commented that Donald Trump’s rants about the danger of Mexicans and Guatamalans flooding into our country were not a real problem. The real danger was from climate change and the devastation it was bringing with it.
Cole said that the real emergency is global warming. 13 government agencies agreed that our climate crisis will slash the us gross domestic product by 10% at the end of the century, and that it will devastate our crops and flood and lash our coasts. And the cost of global warming to the world in 2018 alone was already in the tens of billions of dollars.
Cole ended by saying that “The real invading hordes are the wildfires of the Western states. Wildfires in California destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres in 2018.
Vox notes that although wildfires are natural in the American West, they are morphing into Franken-conflagrations under the impact of human-driven global heating. Vox went on to say that , “Six of California’s 10 most destructive wildfires on record have hit in just the past three years.” And the wildfires in 2018 were 30% larger than the past decade’s average. There is less time between fires for forests to recover, and less moisture in the air.
Matthew Brown of the AP argued that the entire American southwest is now different.
And this is just the beginning. An article in the New York Times on August 28, 2019 says that the whole world is on fire. “In South America, the Amazon basin is ablaze. Halfway around the world in central Africa, vast stretches of savanna are going up in flame. Arctic regions in Siberia are burning at a historic pace.” Wildfire is the new reality not just in the US; it is the new reality all over the world.
This article goes on to say that “One reason that arctic wildfires are particularly concerning is that in addition to trees and grassland burning, peat also burns. Peat is a dirt-like material in the ground itself that releases much more carbon dioxide when it burns than do trees per acre of fire. In the past, peat fires in northern climates were rare because of moisture that is now disappearing as the region becomes warmer and drier.”
We are sooner or later going to have to realize that the world is in the midst of a horrendous problem and it we don’t face this fact squarely and soon it is going to be much worse.
One of this years best books on Global warming is The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. He says that the world has warmed two degrees already and that it is going to get much worse.
David Wallace-Wells says” the worst-case warming scenarios are horrendous, but even the best-case scenario of 1.5 degrees is alarming enough. Two degrees of warming would be terrible, but it’s better than three, at which point Southern Europe would be in permanent drought, African droughts would last five years on average, and the areas burned annually by wildfires in the United States could quadruple, or worse, from last year’s million-plus acres. And three degrees is much better than four, at which point six natural disasters could strike a single community simultaneously; the number of climate refugees, already in the millions, could grow tenfold, or 20-fold, or more; and, globally, damages from warming could reach $600 trillion — about double all the wealth that exists in the world today. We are on track for more warming still — just above four degrees by 2100, the U.N. estimates. So if optimism is always a matter of perspective, the possibility of four degrees shapes mine.”
Wildfire is the new reality in the new world of global warming. And it isn’t going to be good if we stay on the same course.
Here are some more reading on this subject.