Why those California fires signal deadly climate change

Global heating has worsened California’s wildfire season by causing dryer weather. This illustration depicting the hazy, orange skies above much of the American West is just one consequence of this natural disaster. Illustration by Anna Iorfino/The Daily Campus.

Global heating has worsened California’s wildfire season by causing dryer weather, leading forests to become more flammable, meaning that, like it or not, climate change is real. The Sept. 5 fires blazing through California were said to start after a gender-reveal party used a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device”. Arson and negligence have long had a history in California’s forest fires, but it is climate change that has further fueled their dangers. 

With higher temperatures comes dryer weather. California’s heavy droughts have left millions of dead trees throughout its landscape. Add that with August lightning storms and no rain and you can get yourself some pretty hefty wildfires and, despite being a common part of the state’s history, those California fires are just going to keep getting worse as temperatures rise. In fact, the Northern Hemisphere just had its hottest summer with hurricanes and record heat waves. This apparent global heating trend is something that began in the industrial revolution, rising due to humans beginning to release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, to name a couple. 

Indigenous Californian populations managed forests for millenia without these problems — they had a completely different system of land management. Many factors can come into play when discussing climate. Some can be attributed to poor management, as President Trump claimed about the California forest fires, but it is the devastation left behind that is up to question. Events such as these are further driven to destruction by humans having a negative impact on nature. When we contribute to global warming we are also indirectly contributing to the spread of disasters such as these that have not just destroyed homes, but taken lives. 

If the apocalyptic hazy, orange skies over California weren’t enough to scare you then just think about the fact that rising temperatures like this are not just impacting warmer areas on Earth but also places like the Arctic where 95% of the “oldest and thickest ice has declined.” This could lead to colder winters and hotter summers since the Arctic serves somewhat as a balance between the sun and Earth. Global warming damages crops and hurts wildlife, not just in America, but all over the world. If it is not tackled then it could lead to higher prices in food as agriculture becomes more vulnerable to poor weather, not to mention that a number of animals will face extinction as their homes are destroyed by the effects of climate change. 

Climate change should not be every country’s priority. Some nations are already struggling with their economies or poverty issues to care about what happens to the world around them, but in America, climate change is a human rights issue. It should be something that everybody should care about because change has the ability to start here even if it cannot start elsewhere. The United States contributes about 15% of the world’s CO2 emissions, second only to China with 28% and first if considering carbon emissions when measured per capita. We are part of the problem, a big part. 

With just 12 years left, climate change is at a point where limiting its effects is our best option. So, what can you do? You can petition, or advocate, or, most importantly of all, you can vote. We need leadership at the federal level to address climate issues. Voting is a way for people who are willing to bring a change to have a voice. The United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement on June 1, 2017 due to the belief that the economy is more important than the future of billions of people. In a few years, money won’t even matter in a dead man’s world; you will probably be buying clean oxygen from a can or fighting someone for some safe drinking water. 

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