Neighbourhoods burned this week in northern California, with more than 30 people reported dead and 2,000 buildings destroyed. Downtown San Francisco is hazy with smoke from wildfires covering 465 square kilometres, more than 30 kilometres north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Whatever the proximate cause, these should serve as reminders that climate change is not a future problem, nor a hazard just for tiny island nations. It is a problem now, and our land-management plans need to do a better job of incorporating it.
Scientists must walk a careful line when attributing specific events to climate change. Wildfires are part of a healthy ecosystem and a fact of life in the western United States. Many aspects of a landscape affect them, including past fire suppression, land use and human carelessness.
OTHING MORE than ash and bones.” That grim description of how some victims were found underscores the horror of the wildfires that swept through and devastated Northern California. At least 38 people were killed, including a 14-year-old boy found dead in the driveway of the home he was trying to flee, a 28-year-woman confined to a wheelchair and a couple who recently had celebrated their 75th anniversary. In addition to the lives lost, approximately 5,700 homes and businesses were destroyed, including entire neighborhoods turned into smoldering ruins.
Some 220,000 acres, including prized vineyards, have been scorched, and the danger is not over, as some fires are still burning and officials fear the return of winds could spread more catastrophe. Fire season is part of life in California, something that residents know and prepare for after the hot, dry summer months. But the events that began last Sunday have been unprecedented, and so the question that must be confronted is what caused the deadliest week of wildfires in the state’s history.
Source: Washington Post Editorial Board via Reader Supported News: See It, Say It: Climate Change