California fires and climate change

Photo via ABC News

Photo via ABC News

Napa Valley, California is yet another county whose residents were threatened by fires as of Sept. 27, 2020.

Once forecasters gave a red flag warning, evacuations were ordered. NBC Bay Area reported that approximately 70,000 residents were forced to leave. It was reported that 24,000 buildings in both Napa and Sonoma counties, north of San Francisco, were in danger due to the Glass Fire, which was sparked overnight in Napa Valley. Cal Fire Deputy Chief Jonathan Cox informed reporters that vineyards, resorts, and homes were burnt through.

The air was hazy and smoky around a lot of the San Francisco Bay Area. Officials even stated a hazardous air warning due to the harsh air conditions that have resulted from the fires. 

According to NBC News, more than 17,000 firefighters were hard at work, facing over 20 significant wildfires across California. Since mid-August, 3.6 million acres have been set aflame after many of the biggest fires in state history were lit from thousands of lightning strikes, most of them being located in Northern California. 

The Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has connected the wildfires to climate change. On Twitter, he stated that “Climate change isn’t something to address in the distant future. The climate crisis is here.” 

Former President Donald Trump removed the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord early in his administration. This worldwide agreement’s purpose is to tackle climate change and includes countries like India, China, and Russia. At a meeting with officials in McClellan Park, California, CNN reported that Former President Donald Trump said, “I don’t think science knows, actually.” Trump additionally declared that other countries need to take responsibility for their pollution levels more than the U.S. since the U.S. was “just a small speck.”

Climate experts openly disagree and have informed CNN that because of human-caused climate change, fire behavior is affected by the increasing peaks in temperature and dry vegetation. The U.S. continues to be the world’s second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. 

While running for President, Joe Biden promised to lead the world to address the climate crisis through example, by ensuring that the U.S. reaches a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. As part of the Biden Plan, he claimed that he would demand that Congress enacts legislation in his first year as President that: creates an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025; makes a groundbreaking investment in clean energy, climate research, as well as innovation; and incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most affected by climate change. He also claimed to unite the world in tackling the challenge of climate change and do more than recommit the U.S. to the Paris Agreement on climate change. 

So far, President Biden has already set the U.S. up to immediately rejoin the Paris Agreement. On Nov. 23, Biden named John Kerry as his special envoy for climate change and gave him a seat on the White House National Security Council. Kerry served as Secretary of State under President Obama and played an important role in mediating the original Paris Agreement.

The destruction of the California forests from the fires show the “fury of climate change everywhere, all this year and right now,” according to President Joe Biden. He explained how the wildfires in California were the most recent example of extreme weather events affecting the U.S. due to global warming during a live-streamed speech from Wilmington, Delaware.

Climate change has been a significant factor in the increased risk of wildfires in California and the extent of their damage. Research has already proven that the change in climate creates dry conditions and increases drought, extending fire season. By establishing policies and enforcing limits, improving environmentally-friendly technology, and reducing our dependence on harmful fossil fuels, the U.S. can transition to a low-carbon, clean energy economy that can confront climate change.