California’s wildfires have been devastating the state, destroying homes and taking lives. With firefighters struggling to keep the flames at bay, many have been forced to evacuate. The death toll has now reached fifty, and yet the question still remains: who or what is responsible for these ever-increasing disasters?
California is currently being plagued by three separate fires. The Camp Fire is burning in the Northern part of the state, and is one of the deadliest fires to ever hit California. The Woolsey Fire and the Hill Fire meanwhile are ongoing near LA, lowering air quality to dangerous levels in the city. This air pollution is in many ways the true danger of the fires, simply because of how widespread its impact can be. As the environmental epidemiologist Jia Coco Liu comments ‘With the help of wind, wildfire smoke can float hundreds of miles when there is no rain’.
Donald Trump has been quick to share his opinion on his favourite platform. The President blames the fires on ‘gross mismanagement of the forests’. Trump’s main concern is over the billions of dollars that the federal government gives annually in order to manage the forests of California. However, these management projects ensure the sustainable conservation of forests, including initiatives meant to prevent fires getting out of control. The real cause of the fires is climate change, in spite of Trump’s denial of its impact.
The California fire agencies fully understand this. They have witnessed the full consequences of climate change, with state temperatures rising by 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century. This has led to less rain and a much drier climate, causing wildfires to spread historically quickly. Many people now live in danger. An analysis by Verisk (a New Jersey City based analytical firm) concluded that 15% of homes in California are in high/very high fire risk zones. These physical damages also come along with financial consequences: reports from Bloomberg put the costs to rebuild the fires destruction above $19 billion.
There is no doubt that climate change is going to have an unthinkable impact on our futures. The California Fire Service states that 9 out of 10 of the largest fires by area have taken place in in the last 20 years. It is only going to get much worse if we carry on the way we are. Trump needs to realise that without proper interventions now, our global future is at risk.