For decades, people have been painting climate change as something that will happen over a hundred years from now. That image is now long gone. Hurricane Sally devastated the south coast of America, wild fires rage in California, and the Antarctic falls apart. It is more important than ever before to listen to climate science, yet politicians are ignoring this message.
President Trump has ignored these warnings. "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch," Trump said, though he provided no scientific explanation and dismissed experts. Then he said: "I don't think science knows, actually." These words are not very shocking coming from Mr. Trump, but they send a message to the rest of the country, and to the world: if the president is not paying attention to climate science, who is?
On September Fourth, wildfires began to rage across the state of California, wreaking havoc. In all, over fifty major fires raze the ground this week. It has already destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres across multiple counties, and almost a thousand structures have been damaged, with thousands more expected to be. This is the worst Californian fire in 110 years, since the Great Fire ravaged 3 million acres in 1910.
According to many climate scientists, this is the actualization of the feared effects of climate change. While it is true that the fires are started from lightning strikes and a gender reveal party gone wrong, climate change has exacerbated these dangerous effects. As temperatures rise, it gives way to wildfires. The LA county recorded 121ºF at the beginning of this epidemic of wildfires, the hottest ever recorded. Even more dangerous, however, is how this climactic change takes moisture out of the air, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. He said that extreme heat events take away moisture from plants. That makes the Californian forests ripe for fires. The same occurs with soil moisture.
"This is really a testament to how dry the vegetation is, in terms of how quickly these fires spread when they were ignited by lightning,"
This is a prime example of the "ripple effect" so often referred to in climate science, also called compounding effects. The dangers of climate change do not lie in just one impact or even many separate impacts. The true danger is how climate effects build on one another. How do we know this? Through climate science. Climate science helps us to predict the temperature rise over the next few decades, and show the effects that will happen just next summer.
These wildfires show how climate change is happing right now.
“If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,”
Gov. Gavin Newsom said last month.
Climate migration is the movement of large groups of people due to the effect of climate change. In recent years, climate migration has seen an uptick, particularly from rising sea levels, droughts, famine, or other dangerous climate effects. But now, as the western U.S. is in flames, Americans too are becoming climate migrants. In the entire fire season, over 7,500 structures have been destroyed in California alone. In Oregon, over 40,000 people were placed under evacuation orders during the month of September. As of October 2, 53,000 residents are under evacuation orders. Climate migration has the possibility to change how Americans live, including how people choose to live.
Schmidt, Brad. “Oregon Initially Said 500,000 People Had Been Evacuated Because of Wildfires. The Numbers Didn't Add up -- and the State Backtracked." The Oregonian. September 11, 2020. https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2020/09/oregon-said-500000-people-have-been-evacuated-because-of-wildfires-the-numbers-dont-add-up.html.
Domash, Alex. “Americans Are Becoming Climate Migrants before Our Eyes | Alex Domash.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, October 2, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/02/climate-change-migration-us-wildfires.
Fuller, Thomas, and Christopher Flavelle. “A Climate Reckoning in Fire-Stricken California.” The New York Times. The New York Times, September 10, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/10/us/climate-change-california-wildfires.html.
Mulkern, Anne C. “Fast-Moving California Wildfires Boosted by Climate Change.” Scientific American. Scientific American, August 24, 2020. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fast-moving-california-wildfires-boosted-by-climate-change/.
Jacob, Julia. “Creek Fire Becomes Largest Single Blaze in California History.” ABC News. ABC News Network, September 24, 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/US/creek-fire-largest-single-blaze-california-history/story?id=73189352.