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California Wildfires: Death Toll Rises to 23, 'Worst Air Quality Ever Recorded' in Bay Area
As of Wednesday, the fast-moving blazes—aided by high winds and low humidity—have burned nearly 170,000 acres and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and commercial structures since the outbreak started Sunday.
The confirmed death toll has risen to 23, with 285 reported missing. Thousands have been forced to flee due to mandatory evacuations.
A forecast of of high winds on Thursday could deteriorate conditions.
"We're not going to be out of the woods for a great many days to come," Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott said at a news conference yesterday.
While the cause of the infernos has yet to be determined, some scientists have said that climate change may play a role.
"It's very clear that the increasingly hot summers are the product of climate change," Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told NBC News.
Alex Hall, a climate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, also told the New York Times that global warming may at least be making the winds drier.
"That is a pretty key parameter for fire risk," he said.
The region's main utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, has acknowledged that gale-force winds downed some of their power lines.
"These destructive winds, along with millions of trees weakened by years of drought and recent renewed vegetation growth from winter storms, all contributed to some trees, branches and debris impacting our electric lines across the North Bay," company spokesman Matt Nauman told the Mercury News.
"In some cases, we have found instances of wires down, broken poles and impacted infrastructure. Where those have occurred, we have reported them to the CPUC and CalFire. Our thoughts are with all those individuals who were impacted by these devastating wildfires."
The wine country fires have released devastating air pollution.
"We are reporting the worst air quality ever recorded for smoke in many parts of the Bay Area," Tom Flannigan, a spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, told the East Bay Times. "This is similar to what you see in Beijing, China in bad air days there."
The air pollution could even equal a year's worth of traffic, Sean Raffuse, an air-quality analyst at the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory at University of California in Davis, said. Raffuse estimates the fires have produced about 10,000 tons of fine particulate matter, about the same amount generated by the state's 35 million vehicles.
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the affected areas as well as for Orange County in the southern part of the state.
The National Weather Service has also issued Red Flag Warnings, the highest alert, for much of Northern California.
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By Jennifer Molidor
One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.
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Readers of this blog know how concerned EDF is over the Trump EPA's approval of many dozens of new chemicals based on its mere "expectation" that workers across supply chains will always employ personal protective equipment (PPE) just because it is recommended in the manufacturer's non-binding safety data sheet (SDS).
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In a big victory for animals, Prada has announced that it's ending its use of fur! It joins Coach, Jean Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and many others PETA has pushed toward a ban.
This is a victory more than a decade in the making. PETA and our international affiliates have crashed Prada's catwalks with anti-fur signs, held eye-catching demonstrations all around the world, and sent the company loads of information about the fur industry. In 2018, actor and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson sent a letter on PETA's behalf urging Miuccia Prada to commit to leaving fur out of all future collections, and the iconic designer has finally listened.
If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.
"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
- Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change ›
- How working less could solve all our problems. Really. | ›
- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›