Last week, as the heat wave and wildfires continued to batter the American West, I wrote about how we know that global warming is connected to wildfires. Of course, not every fire can or should be attributed to climate change, but a hotter and drier climate can make wildfires more likely to occur. And that is exactly what we're seeing during the fire seasons of recent years.
Recently on 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley reported on the connection between climate change and wildfires.When Pelley asked Tom Boatner, the federal government's chief of fire operations, what he thought about people that deny the reality of global warming, Boatner was quick to reply:
"You won't find them on the fire line in the American west anymore, because we've had climate change beat into us over the last 10 or 15 years. We know what we're seeing and we're dealing with a period of climate in terms of temperature and humidity and drought that is different from anything people have seen in our lifetimes."
In another interesting segment, CBS News reported on how scientists are developing ways to fight fires before they start by analyzing the moisture content in the vegetation and predicting where fires could start.
Speaking of the dryness in the American West, one researcher said:
"We got a tinderbox," said George Ewan. "We are in a critical situation."
Ewan collects samples of vegetation for the Orange County Fire Authority. "Dead, dead...little bit of green vegetation here," he said as he was surveying an area.
He confirms on the ground what the satellites show from above: there is almost no moisture in this brush.
"I am seeing that we are in a critical stage two months ahead of schedule," he said. "The numbers I got last time, which I took two weeks ago, were comparable to the first part of August."
It's going to be a long, hot summer whether you deny the science of climate change or not. We're already living in what could be called "the new normal." We've got to get serious about reducing carbon emissions to slow the degree of change and maintain a hospitable climate.
UPDATE: The last line of this post has been edited for clarity. Thanks, Marenna.