‘Climate Change…In Real Time’: California’s Frightening Fires Are The Nightmare Scientists Long Predicted


By Jessica Corbett
Common Dreams (7/31/18)

As deadly wildfires continue to rage in California—destroying hundreds of homes, threatening thousands more, and forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate—experts believe the blazes are part of “the new reality” that climate scientists have warned about for decades.

“This past month shows climate change for real and in real time,” The Fresno Bee declared in an editorial published Monday.

The ferocious California fires, the Guardian reports, have “spawned bizarre pyrotechnics, from firenados to towering pyrocumulus clouds that evoke a nuclear detonation. These events are not aberrations, say experts. They are California’s future.”

“More acres are burning,” Michael Wehner, a senior staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told the newspaper. “That is almost certainly due to climate change.”

Anthony LeRoy Westerling, a professor at the University of California, Merced, added that “climate change is continuing to unfold,” and “the impacts from it will probably accelerate.”

“Wildfires ravaging the state have “spawned bizarre pyrotechnics, from firenados to towering pyrocumulus clouds that evoke a nuclear detonation.”

California is far from alone in its current struggle to rein in a hot, fiery crisis; in recent weeks, experts have sounded alarms about heat waves and wildfires across the globe, linking the extreme weather to the warming climate.

“Scientists have been warning that the atmospheric buildup of man-made greenhouse gas would eventually be an existential threat,” noted The Fresno Bee. “It is sobering to witness how swiftly that prediction has come true, from the lethal heat wave gripping Japan to the record temperatures in Europe to the flames exploding near the Arctic Circle.”

As Common Dreams reported Friday, amid record-breaking temperatures worldwide, an analysis by international scientists found that the “unprecedented” heat wave which has swept across Europe and fueled dozens of fires in Sweden was made more than twice as likely by climate change.

Summer death march

“What was once regarded as unusually warm weather will become commonplace,” concluded one European researcher, “and in some cases, it already has.”

In California, as The Fresno Bee warned, “summer has been a death march and August’s heat is just about to start.”

The current wildfires are just the latest in a series of “explosive” blazes California has experienced in recent years. Just last December, the state saw a “once-in-a-generation” firestorm that ravaged an area about six times the size of Manhattan and forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate their homes.

And as anthropogenic global warming has generated a “new era of western wildfires” that are harder to control, experts have warned that traditional firefighting methods are inadequate.

“If this is the new normal for wildfires, then California must do better. But prevention is only part of the equation,” The Fresno Bee continued. “California must plan now for these and other aspects of global warming, as more of the state becomes too hot, too dry, or too fire- or flood-prone to safely live in, and as more of the world braces for the era of climate refugees.”

Many argue that in addition to improving wildfire management and emergency response tactics, preparing for the future means ramping up efforts to dramatically slash greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming.

In a letter to California Gov. Jerry Brown—a Democrat known for taking bold climate action but also, in some cases, not going far enough—five Nobel Peace Laureates acknowledged the “devastating” fires and called for the state “to become the first major fossil fuel producer to begin a managed and just transition off oil and gas production, in turn protecting the climate, citizens on the front lines of extraction, and setting a new direction for global climate action.”

“As climate change creates its own weather,” Oil Change International’s Andy Rowell wrote Monday, “how many more people have to die, how many of our children do we have to bury, or how many brave firefighters put their lives in danger, before society acts decisively?”

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Teenagers’ Climate Lawsuit Against Trump Can Proceed, Supreme Court Rules

By Julia Conely
Common Dreams (7/31/18)

A group of teenagers and younger children secured a victory in their case against the Trump administration this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that their lawsuit demanding that the federal government take stronger action against the climate crisis can proceed.

The high court rejected the Trump administration’s request that the case be halted. The ruling follows similar decisions from the U.S. District Court in Oregon and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The case, known as Juliana vs. the United States, will now be heard by the Oregon court.

“This decision should give young people courage and hope that their third branch of government, all the way up to the Supreme Court, has given them the green light to go to trial in this critical case about their unalienable rights,” said Julia Olson, chief legal counsel and executive director of Our Children’s Trust, which is representing the plaintiffs. “We look forward to presenting the scientific evidence of the harms and dangers these children face as a result of the actions their government has taken to cause the climate crisis.”

Children will be able to present “scientific evidence linking the U.S. government’s actions and policies to climate change impacts like wildfire and droughts ” in U.S. District Court.

Twenty-one children and teenagers—ranging in age from eight to 19—first brought the case against the federal government in 2015, arguing that the Obama administration was not doing enough to curb carbon emissions and other activities that contribute to the warming of the Earth.

“Kids understand the threats climate change will have on our future,” then-13-year-old Zoe Foster, one of the plaintiffs, told Slate at the time. “I’m not going to sit by and watch my government do nothing. We don’t have time to waste. I’m pushing my government to take real action on climate, and I won’t stop until change is made.”

Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, the president has withdrawn the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and spearheaded a number of anti-regulatory actions, weakening clean car standards and rolling back portions of the Clean Air Act.

The plaintiffs argue that such actions violate their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“The scientific evidence linking the U.S. government’s actions and policies to climate change impacts like wildfire and droughts that harm us youth must be presented before our country’s justice system in its entirety to ensure that our rights may be protected,” said a 21-year-old plaintiff named Jacob.

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