With the fourth-largest city in the nation underwater, far less attention has been devoted to the fact that a sizable chunk of Oregon is burning.
According to recent estimates, a landmass half the size of Rhode Island is currently on fire.
Even Oregon residents who live nowhere near the fires are being half-suffocated by hazardous smoke.
Trump can stay where he is. This emergency isn’t close to what Texas is experiencing right now, and the last thing the state needs is Sauron’s baleful eye cast in its direction. Westerners will take all the federal help they can get, but they sure don’t need more noxious orange balls of gas sucking the oxygen out of the air.
What would be nice, though — just for once — is some acknowledgement that natural disasters are becoming more destructive because of climate change, and that to ignore this looming, slow-motion crisis is the surest way to invite more cataclysm.
With every major hurricane, the age-old argument over what’s behind these extreme weather events — human-caused climate change or the popularity of Will & Grace — rears its head. Of course, we need explanations that hold up to common sense and scientific rigor, but our president has called only one of these theories a hoax, so don’t hold your breath. (Unless you happen to be in Bend, Oregon, right now.)
But — surprise, surprise — wildfires are also becoming more destructive because of climate change, and we now have peer-reviewed research to back that up.
A study published last October in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at wildfires in the Western U.S. It found that human-caused climate change has led to a huge increase in the amount of land burned in forest fires over the past 30 years:
Human-caused climate change has nearly doubled the amount of land burned in western U.S. forest fires over the past three decades, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Idaho and Columbia University.
The researchers estimate that human-caused climate change caused an additional 16,000 square miles of western forest lands to burn between 1984 and 2015. That’s about the size of the Bitterroot, Clearwater, Kootenai, Panhandle and Nez Perce National forests combined, or more than 30 times the size of the city of Los Angeles.
“We’re no longer waiting for human-caused climate change to leave its fingerprint on wildfire across the western U.S. It’s already here,” said John Abatzoglou, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of geography in UI’s College of Science. “Over the last several decades we’ve seen longer fire seasons, larger fires and more area burned — and those observations led us to ask, ‘Why?’ What we found was that human-caused climate change played a resounding role in observed increases in forest fire activity.”
Someone get Trump a fiddle. The West is burning. Maybe he can find a minority religious sect to blame it on.