Year 4, Month 6, Day 18: Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

The Christian Science Monitor offers an analysis of the fires in Southern California:

The Powerhouse fire, which erupted in scrub-covered rugged terrain north of Los Angeles and has blackened 30,000 acres, destroyed 6 homes, and forced the evacuation of thousands of people, is dramatizing the challenges facing states across the West, including a much longer fire season, analysts say.

The Powerhouse fire started last Thursday afternoon and now has 2,200 firefighters battling it on foot, vehicles, and in the air. It spread quickly, feeding on the several-decades-old scrub covering the area’s hills and canyons.

As of Monday morning, authorities said, the fire was 40 percent contained. Officials estimated the fire would not be fully contained for another week. Temperatures Monday were expected to climb into the mid-80s with wind gusts up to 45 mph in the hills and valleys south of Lake Hughes.

Analysts said the large early-season fire creates an opportunity to raise awareness about a long list of issues facing localities, states, and the federal government. Those range from man’s contribution to climate change, to choices of where to build homes, to what safety precautions to take in building those homes and how to enforce them.

Given that as a global society we are not seriously addressing climate change, says Dominik Kulakowski, adjunct professor of biology at Clark University Graduate School of Geography in Worcester, Mass., one good question is, “Is this the new normal?” The public, he says, should conclude not merely that this fire season is predicted to be longer, but that such longer seasons will continue for the foreseeable future.

I just don’t see what any of this has to do with me. . June 4:

As climate change accelerates and intensifies, the frequency and size of forest fires is going to go up — perhaps to the point that “fire season” is the default climate for parts of the world. In a climatically-transformed United States, we will have to direct more money to training, equipment and resources for firefighters, or face a far higher bill for lives lost, property destroyed, and ecosystems obliterated.

Republican lawmakers, fanatically averse to tax increases of any sort, will resist any policy that would increase funding for firefighting professionals, even if it means the final costs will be enormously greater. This penny-wise, pound-foolish approach characterizes conservative responses to every aspect of the climate crisis: rather than admit the existence of a very serious problem and take steps to protect their constituents’ lives from its likely consequences, these anti-science politicians would rather see their own country go up in smoke.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 27: Poor Planning On Your Part Unfortunately IS An Emergency On My Part

The Asheville NC Citizen-Times notes that emergency responders are going to have more to do in the years ahead:

ASHEVILLE — At age 92, retired meteorologist William Haggard says his fellow residents at Deerfield retirement community always want to know about the weather. They’ll stop him in the hall and say, “It was supposed to rain on Tuesday, and it didn’t rain a drop.”

Haggard just smiles.

But when they ask about climate change, he tells them what the science shows. “It’s going to get progressively worse.”

Haggard headed what was then known as the National Climatic Records Center, housed in the old Grove Arcade, until his retirement in 1975. He worked 27 more years as a forensic meteorologist and consultant.

Haggard outlined the science and the outlook for climate change Friday at the annual meeting of the Disaster Emergency Response Association International, which returned to its Asheville roots for its 50th anniversary.

Nice to hear of a 92-year-old meteorologist who agrees with the scientists. Sent June 16:

It’s revealing that Republican nominee Mitt Romney modified his position on climate change early in his campaign, in order to appeal to anti-science voters — and that he recently mocked President Obama for wanting to hire more firemen and policemen. As Dale Neal’s article makes clear, our first responders are going to be stressed to the limit in a post-climate-change America. More, and more severe, fires. More, and more severe, floods. More infrastructural damage; more unpredictable weather; more of the kinds of disasters that offer opportunities for heroism…or death.

While most emergencies are by nature unexpected, that cannot be said of the looming climate crisis. We’ve had ample warning; scientists and environmentalists have been trying for years to alert us to the dangers ahead. Why bother predicting a future catastrophe if we’re not going to do anything to stop it? Our nation’s emergency responders deserve better than dismissive political pandering.

Warren Senders