Oil Change International

Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels

California wildfires are “climate change, for real and in real time”

C: FEMA

C: FEMA

How many more have to die? The global heat-wave of 2018, caused by climate change, is now killing in California.

Some eight people have already died, including children and four fire-fighters, in wild-fires ravaging the state.

Just as the authorities found the bodies of people trying to shelter from the flames in Greece, so they have too in California. At the weekend, they found two children sheltering under a wet blanket, along with their grand-mother.

The main blaze currently stands at some 95,000 acres and has destroyed hundreds of homes, with locals near the town of Redding saying the devastation is like a war-zone. Last night the fire was less than twenty per cent contained.

But there are other fires too. California crews are battling 17 large blazes totalling more than 200,000 acres, according to the National Park.  In total, tens of thousands of people have been evacuated, with national parks, such as Yosemite, closed. As Mother Jones noted last week: “It’s the peak of summer tourist season in Yosemite Valley, but the iconic park stands empty as a ghost town.”

Moreover, the raging wildfires are so hot they are creating their own weather, causing the formation of what are known as “Pyrocumulus clouds, or “fire clouds.” As Outside magazine outlines: “The fires are burning so hot that they’re making their own pyrocumulus cloud systems, each up to five miles high. These clouds are also making firefighting efforts more difficult.”

The magazine continues: “The speed with which pyrocumulus clouds form and change, combined with the heat of the fire, can lead to quick, massive temperature swings in the atmosphere, producing unpredictable and severe winds. These can exacerbate the intensity of wildfires, and cause them to move or otherwise behave in unpredictable ways. And that all can put the lives of firefighters and the public at risk.”

As climate change creates its own weather, how many more people have to die, how many of our children do we have to bury or how many brave fire-fighters put their lives in danger, before society acts decisively?

As an editorial from California newspaper the Sacramento Bee that “Summer has been a death march and July isn’t even done.” The paper continues: “This is climate change, for real and in real time. We were warned that the atmospheric buildup of man-made greenhouse gas would eventually be an existential threat”.

“Still, it is sobering to witness how swiftly scientists’ worst predictions have come true, from the lethal heat wave gripping Japan to the record temperatures in Europe to the flames exploding near the Arctic Circle. And it is terrifying to watch as ideologues in the Trump administration block action on this gathering crisis,” says the Bee.

They were not the only ones to make a connection last week. The Washington Post added: “Climate change is supercharging a hot and dangerous summer”. And as the paper stated: “Climate models for three decades have predicted exactly what the world is seeing this summer.”

Scientists predicted this summer, but the climate denial industry, led by the fossil fuel companies, tried to sow doubt and confusion for decades. They tried to prevent action. This is the future they wanted us to have.

As the media wake up to climate change, its not enough just to put the fires on the front-pages. There must be more international discussion about how this is climate change in action, that radical action is needed, and that climate deniers like Donald Trump must be held to account. And so too must his fossil fuel friends. Because their actions caused the earth to burn.

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