7th December 2017
California is currently battling five wildfires across 83,000 acres, and efforts to contain the fires have been hampered by winds gusting up to 80mph, which makes firefighting nearly impossible.
Following the end of a summer with record-breaking heat waves and rainfall levels that are 90% below normal, perfect conditions have arisen to feed these monster conflagrations. Calfire Deputy Chief Scott McLean, explains why this crisis is so severe: “Our fire seasons have been elongated by upwards of 40-50 days over the last 50 years. We had the 5 years of drought. A lot of trees died, over 102 million trees died.”
These conditions are becoming the new normal as anthropogenic-induced climate change bites. In an article by Pacific Standard, Kate Wheeling explains that climate change has doubled the amount of area burned by forest fires between 1984 and 2015. She goes on to describe what is happening at the top of the world and how that may affect California; “New research shows that, as Arctic sea ice dwindles, precipitation in California could drop by as much as 15 percent over the coming decades. As such conditions become the new normal, California could become a perpetual tinderbox.”
Thanks to climate change, we no longer need to go to the cinema to see a disaster movie, we just need to turn on the news or look outside our windows. To get an idea of just how horrific this wildfire is, watch the videos below.
In a case of “what goes around comes around,” one of the world’s climate change villains received some comeuppance in the wildfires. Rupert Murdoch was labelled as the person most responsible for blocking action on climate change, by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2011. They wrote that, “No one does more to spread dangerous disinformation about global warming than Murdoch.”
In the fires that continue to rage around California, Rupert Murdoch’s home and winery were victims of the climate change induced wildfires. Climate change is literally on his doorstep (or rather it’s probably burnt his doorstep), will that be enough to convince a man with little morals to change his view, so that it’s in line with science and…reality?
2017 – The Year the World Burned
It’s been an unbelievable year for wildfires across the globe. The most startling wildfire of all occurred in Greenland – the land of ice was burning for two weeks over the summer. Check out the Guardian’s article here.
As of August, the US had already seen wildfires destroy over 5.6 million acres. That figure will be a lot higher with all the wildfires that have taken place since, including the current California wildfire. Meanwhile Canada has had a devastating season; Naomi Klein wrote a very sobering piece about the Canadian fires here, which I’d encourage everyone to read.
In Europe, Italy and Romania experienced wildfires that burned through an area three times larger than usual according to the Popular Science website. The German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) reports that France, Croatia and Greece experienced the same conditions. Ireland also battled wildfires, as a result of rainfall that was 75% less than usual.
A combination of forest fires in Spain and Portugal, along with Saharan dust also turned the skies above the UK red in October.
Other countries which have seen large wildfires this year include: Armenia, Australia, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Russia (Siberia), South Africa.
Climate Change Is Here and Wildfires Will Get Worse
Climate change is causing more droughts and intense heat, which is giving rise to the perfect conditions for deadly wildfires. DW reports that; “With global temperatures rising [as a result of climate change], scientists say wildfires are likely to become increasingly frequent and widespread… All this can have a feedback effect — more fires mean more carbon released into the atmosphere, which in turn drives climate change.” Welcome to our hot new world.
Priorities matter, and right now world leaders have got them all wrong. The impacts of the climate crisis will only worsen, the longer it takes us to act.
My debut children’s picture book, Hedgey-A and the Honey Bees, is about the need to protect bees from pesticide pollution. It can be purchased online here.