California is and has been suffering from unusual weather cycles caused by climate change that spark devastating wildfires. Many fires are ignited by abnormal lightning storms. However, human activities, like lawn mowers and the even “gender reveal” party pyrotechnics, can also spark wildfires. Regardless of the catalyst, conditions exacerbated by climate change, such as high winds, have significantly contributed to the rapid spread of fires and have even gotten close to blowing bone-dry vegetation into decaying electric infrastructure. Struggling conservation efforts and forest maintenance are also to blame once a fire breaks out.
While Americans hear the most about its western coast’s fire havoc, wildfires are not specific to just this region. Forest fires are a world-wide climate-induced crisis. We must remember that Australia was ravaged by the worst wildfires seen in decades, with large swaths of the country devastated from July 2019 to late February of this year. Lebanon faced catastrophic flames aided by unusually high winds and extreme heat in October 2019. 3,700 acres burned and thousands of people from southern Lebanese towns.
While holistic climate change policy and mitigation efforts are absolutely vital responses, the fires devastating the communities globally are a call to action for specific forest-focused policies like increasing funding for wildfire prevention not just fire suppression. We also need more researchers examining high-risk areas for wildfires and how climate change impacts the fire intensity. While fires are going to still exist even with better climate policies, since so much damage has already been done, there is a pressing need for more funding and alert systems to address urgent needs quickly and effectively.
Wide-spread fire destruction is NOT normal. It is our job as citizens of the planet, above all, to ensure that wildfire catastrophe does not become the new normal. Air quality effects, biodiversity and ecosystem destruction, and financial hardships of impacted communities are just the tip of the iceberg. The fires are a GLOBAL warning siren, a climate reckoning, a plea for climate stability. We must answer that invocation by demanding climate action- it is unquestionably a top policy priority.