Doubtful About Climate Change? Enter the California Wildfires
Updated: Jun 23
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Summers in California continue to get hotter. In September, Los Angeles County hit 121degrees Fahrenheit, its highest recorded temperature. Death Valley may have set an all-time record with a temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. And unless you are Rip Van Winkle, you know about the wildfires that have, according to various sources at this printing, destroyed between 3 and 4 million acres of forests, homes, and businesses, and taken lives throughout California. To put this year’s increase in context, from 2011 to 2020, 10.8 million acres have burned.
According to Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University, “about half of that increase is attributable to the effects of global warming.” Humans have been burning fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases, into the air that trap heat (thus,“greenhouse”) in Earth’s atmosphere and create a rise in the global atmospheric temperature.
This phenomenon has been called global warming, and it has contributed to the California wildfires by creating both warmer and drier conditions. A recent article in the journal Science summarized several factors that support the idea that climate change, brought on by global warming, has contributed to more intense wildfires in California, and beyond. These factors include longer periods of drought; reduced snow deposits and rain in the mountains; and parched vegetation, providing a tremendous source of fuel for fires.
As a 16-year-old, I am amazed that there is any doubt that climate change is real. I may not be an environmental scientist (yet), but as a layperson with intact senses, to deny climate change seems absurd. As California governor Gavin Newsom has said of the increasing wildfires, “If that’s not proof point, testament, to climate change, then I don’t know what is.” I couldn’t agree more.
For more information on climate change and global warming, check out NASA at
https://www.nasa.gov/subject/3127/climate/ and Sierra Club LI at
Dylan D’Agate, a Sierra Club member, is a junior at Half Hollow Hills High School East, Dix Hills, NY, and a leader in his high school’s environmental club.