California Governor Jerry Brown linked his state’s severe drought and wildfires to climate change on Sunday, saying California was “on the front lines” of the warming problem.
Brown said on ABC’s This Week that though California’s wildfires are relatively under control right now, the state is “in a very serious fire season” — one that’s seen about twice as many fires this year as the average — and future control of the fires depends largely on the weather. He said that as the climate changes in California, the state will need thousands more firefighters and California residents will have to be more careful about where and how they build.
“As we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we’re seeing,” he said. “So, we’ve got to gear up. We’re going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we’re just going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can.”
Brown also lambasted those in Congress who deny that climate change is occurring or is caused by humans, saying in California, there’s no question climate is changing.
“It is true that there’s virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous,” he said. “There is no scientific question — there’s just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial.”
Right now, the entire state of California is in the severest rankings of drought, conditions which, as Joe Romm points out, have created a soil moisture level reminiscent of the Dust Bowl. Last week, more than 20,000 residents were forced to flee their homes as heat and strong Santa Ana winds created conditions ripe for fires that spread through San Diego County.
Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said Thursday that already this year firefighters have responded to a 100 percent increase over the average number of wildfires in the state, and blamed the drought for much of that increase.
“It starts with the drought,” Berlant said. “The grass, the brush and the trees — not only in San Diego County, really across California — are really dry.”
Kirk Kushen, battalion chief of the Kern County Fire Department, told the Guardian that the state “never really completed the 2013 fire season” — instead, this year’s fire season has been a continuation of last year’s.
“Normally, I don’t even put wildfire gear in my vehicle until the end of April. This year I never took it out,” he said.
Brown said on This Week that his state was working to adapt to climate change as well as trying to mitigate it — California adopted a Climate Adaptation Strategy in 2009 and the state has goals to to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Right now, though, wildfires are taking up much of the state’s energy.
“In California, we’re not only adapting, but we’re taking steps to reduce our greenhouse gases in a way that i think exceeds any other state in the country, and we’ll do more,” he said. “In the meantime, all we can do is fight all these damn fires.”