Opinion: Why the Raging Fires in California Spark Climate Change Concern

From August through October of 2020, California has experienced the largest and most widespread wildfires in its history. Wildfires have stretched across seven counties, becoming the largest in state history according to earthobservatory.nasa.gov. These fires contribute to a nearly inconceivable year of fires in California, as five of the six largest fires in California history have occurred in 2020. Researchers and experts are concerned with how these increased and incredibly destructive wildfires reflect growing concerns around climate change. 


“It is a travesty, because now there are more homeless people and with the current COVID-19 pandemic, that makes things much worse,” said a current NJ resident and parent, when asked about their reaction to the news of the wildfires in California. 


All those interviewed for this article gave a version of the same answer, which shows how the California wildfires have raised not only statewide, but national concern. 


“People and pollution change and create bad weather conditions, which affects the climate,” said a freshman student at Pascack Hills High School.


Studies have shown that recent California wildfires have led to an enormous amount of carbon monoxide being released into the air. Since carbon monoxide is a pollutant, it plays a major role in air pollution and climate change, thus potentially contributing to the problem of climate change and quickening the cycle. This means dryer, hotter, and harsher weather conditions, which, in turn, lead to even more destructive wildfires, while impacting weather conditions around the country and the world. 


“Since I moved to Florida, I have noticed that the past few summers and winters have been hotter than the normal temperatures for those seasons should be,” said a former NJ native and present resident of Florida 


According to climate.nasa.gov, scientists predict global temperatures will continue to increase for decades due to greenhouse gas emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, forecasts an average, global temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.


“I think the biggest contributors to climate change are people who don't care about the environment and aren’t environmentally conscious. Their beliefs lead them to do ignorant things and ignore the crisis that has been building for years. They don’t care about the future, only themselves and their own present needs and businesses, and that’s very dangerous,” said an FLHS senior. 


The United States is the second largest contributor of global emissions on Earth. As temperatures continue to rise and weather patterns become ever-more volatile, the impact of forest fires, pollution, gas emissions, global warming, and climate change may very well depend on how the policymakers and citizens, both here in the US and abroad, respond to these threats. California’s wildfires are a terrible precursor to the threats we face and the vast amount of destruction climate change may produce moving forward. 


There have been an astounding 8,400 wildfires, which have burned over four million acres of forest in California so far this year. More devastating, however, is the loss of life and property at the hands of these fires.


“To date, the total number of fatalities statewide [in California] is 31 and more than 9,200 structures have been destroyed. High pressure building over the state continues the warming and drying trend. Temperatures will rise above normal this week, and no rainfall is expected,” read a recent update on California’s state-run wildfire precaution webpage, fire.ca.gov.


The California wildfires started in the beginning of the year and are still occurring as containment has been slow. A recent New York Times article by Jill Cowan, the California Today correspondent for the Times, calculates the total cost of the damages from the wildfires will be over $20 billion. 


“I feel like the amount of pollution is crazy. Maybe one day, we will burn…or lose our proper oxygen levels,” said a Hackensack, NJ resident.




Header Credit; www.givingcompass.org


Thumbnail Credit; www.express.co.uk

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