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Worst Wildfire in California History Threatens State's Climate Goals
The vast blaze, now 89 percent contained, has burned through 281,620 acres, according to CalFire. More than 1,000 structures have been destroyed or damaged and two people were killed.
But the other devastating aspect? A future of even more fires due to climate change. The world's rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gases makes fires more likely to occur not just in California, but across the planet.
And in a vicious cycle, the Golden State's recent string of fires has caused a sharp increase in unhealthy air and carbon dioxide emissions, which drives global climate change. So even if you don't live in California, its fires also affect you and our future generations.
“The kinds of fires we're seeing now generate millions of tons of GHG emissions. This is significant," Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the state Air Resources Board, a regulatory body, told KQED Science.
While the amount of emissions from the December fires have yet to be calculated, October's wine country blazes alone released as much pollution as motorists in the state normally emit in a year.
Additionally, burning trees not only release a powerful pollutant known as black carbon, but the loss of a forest also hampers CO2 sequestration, Jim Branham, executive officer at the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, noted to KQED.
The immense scale of the emissions could also undermine California's climate change goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030.
California Governor Jerry Brown has warned that the state's vast fires "could happen every year or every few years."
"We're facing a new reality in this state, where fires threaten people's lives, their properties, their neighborhoods, and of course billions and billions of dollars," Brown commented after surveying the Thomas Fire's damage in Ventura County. "With climate change, some scientists are saying southern California is literally burning up."
Indeed, California's fires have become more and more destructive, with 14 of the top 20 largest fires in state history having occurred since 2000.
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Ethics investigations have been opened into the conduct of senior Trump appointees at the nation's top environmental agencies.
The two investigations focus on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and six high-ranking officials in the Department of Interior (DOI), The Hill reported Tuesday. Both of them involve the officials' former clients or employers.
"This is demonstrative of the failures at the very top of this administration to set an ethical tone," Campaign Legal Center Ethics Counsel Delaney Marsco told The Washington Post of the DOI investigation. "When people come to work for government, they're supposed to work on behalf of the public. It's a betrayal of the public trust when senior political appointees seem to give privileged access to their former employers or former clients."
By Dipika Kadaba
We've known for more than 50 years that smoking cigarettes comes with health hazards, but it turns out those discarded butts are harmful for the environment, too. Filtered cigarette butts, although small, contain dozens of chemicals, including arsenic and benzene. These toxins can leach into the ground or water, creating a potentially deadly situation for nearby birds, fish and other wildlife.
By Wenonah Hauter
Five years ago this week, an emergency manager appointed by then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder made the devastating decision to save money by switching Flint's water supply over from Detroit's water system to the Flint River. Seen as a temporary fix, the new water supply was not properly treated. High levels of lead leached from the old pipes, poisoning a generation of Flint's children, and bacteria responsible for an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease killed more than a dozen residents.
Did you know that more than a third of food is wasted or thrown away every year? And that only 25 percent of it would be enough to feed the 795 million undernourished people in the world? That's why today is Stop Food Waste Day, a chance to reflect on what you can do to waste less of the food you buy.