Some of the factors that shape the frequency and severity of wildfire in California, like drought, record high temperatures and strong winds are beyond our control and in many cases, exacerbated by a changing climate. Other factors, such as how we manage our fire-adapted conifer forests, where we build homes and how we prepare and protect our communities are within our control.
Source: The Nature Conservancy – California: Let’s Stop Making Wildfire History
Media and social media have been quick to blame California’s fires (including recent years and the present) on climate change. Social media instapundits proclaim that “only if we had done X on climate change” this would not have happened. Or if “Politician X was not in office” we would have solved climate change and this would have prevented the fires.
But that makes no sense – what could have been done on climate change, last year, or five years ago or ten years ago or even 20 years ago that would have effected forest fires this year? If we magically ended all fossil fuel usage 20 years ago, the forest fire risk this year would have been exactly the same.
While dealing with climate is an issue, it would have done nothing vis a vis current fires. Nor will spending trillions on climate change in the next 10 or 20 years resolve California’s fire problems – since spending trillions diverts enormous sums to climate change, it diverts money away from measures that would reduce California fire risk now.
We need to control what we can control – now. And that is what this Nature Conservancy report says.
Update: More here on how building codes evolved to create safer structures in earthquake prone areas, whereas we have not evolved building codes to make safer fire proof structures in fire prone areas. Fire is a natural part of the California ecosystem – and now, millions of people are living within areas that are dependent on fire.