Igniting a Political Firestorm, the California Wildfires
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
A record 2.2 million acres, the size of Connecticut, is burning in California. The wildfires have caused more than devastating destruction and eerie red skies. A political firestorm has erupted around the wildfires and their impact on Californians and the country.
On Monday President Trump argued that the scale of destruction caused by the wildfires was not a result of climate change. Forest mismanagement is - in the eyes of Trump - to blame for the fires. Trump has previously vowed to withhold federal fire relief aid from California because the state voted blue. Directly butting heads with his opponent Joe Biden, who told The Guardian, “here’s the deal: Hurricanes don’t swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don’t skip towns that vote a certain way. The impacts of climate change don’t pick or choose” (1).
There has been extended research and data collected on the impact climate change has had on the severity of wildfires. As the earth warms and becomes drier, the likelihood of fires increases as well as the severity. Wildfire risk is dependent on a number of factors, including temperature, soil moisture, and the presence of trees (2). Climate change impacts all these factors, leading to the doubling of the number of large fires between 1984 and 2015 (3).
The El Dorado fire in California was sparked by a gender reveal party; that human activities cause wildfires is not uncommon. A study by the University of Colorado reported that 84%of wildfires are caused by people and spread by warm temperatures and dry conditions (4)
The debate has expanded beyond the fires themselves, becoming a partisan debate on the factuality of science itself. The debate around the wildfires is only likely to heat up as it becomes the center of the two political campaigns.
As our climate continues to change and the impact of natural disasters become more apparent, it is clear that we need to elect candidates who value science-led actions on slowing the process.
In San Diego, Democratic candidate Georgette Gomez (CA-53) has brought climate change and environmental justice to the forefront of her campaign. Gomez, like many others, believes that a bipartisan effort is needed to tackle issues surrounding climate change.
Gomez is running against Democrat Sara Jacobs (CA-53). Jacobs has a plan to end fossil fuel subsidies and refuse to offer these same fossil fuel companies a bail-out.
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), who is running for Florida's U.S. House District 26, has a unique perspective on climate change with her work for the Coral Restoration Foundation. With first-hand work experience attempting to slow the impacts of climate change, she brings a fresh and hands-on approach to climate policy.
There is a broad understanding that the effects of climate change will have a great impact on all aspects of American life, especially if a lack of appropriate policy continues. Therefore, it is vital that we begin to elect candidates who fight to protect our environment and halt the severe impacts of climate change.