Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Worst Wildfire in California History Threatens State's Climate Goals

Climate

As predicted, the Thomas Fire in Southern California was officially declared the largest wildfire in state history, surpassing the 2003 Cedar Fire which burned 273,246 acres and killed 15 people.

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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Joe Leech

The human body comprises around 60% water.

It's commonly recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day (the 8×8 rule).

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less

Trending

People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less