Calvin on Climate
Published in

Calvin on Climate

Anything but climate action

President Donald Trump, arriving in Sacramento for a briefing on Western wildfires, continued to downplay the role of climate change in California’s horrific fire season, claimed the earth will soon begin cooling — and told California and other states to solve the problem by managing their forests more wisely.

Here we go again. Cooling soon? That’s news to scientists.

Better management, as in clearing undergrowth? That too is deliberately misleading. Everything, including wildfires, has multiple causes. People have a tendency to forget this, and so may not be sufficiently suspicious of those who seek to mislead them.

Fortunately, we can consult NOAA’s data on the subject of wildfire numbers and the annual numbers of really big wildfire episodes: those causing more than a billion dollars in damage. Here is the history since 1985, corrected for inflation.

The number of billion-dollar wildfires is up 250% since 2000. Source: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/time-series
No billion-dollar threshold here, just the number of wildfires reported annually from 1985 through 2019..

Guess what! The annual number of wildfires hasn’t changed much (decreased, if anything), but the number of big billion-dollar fires is up 250% (3.5X). Washington Governor Jay Inslee has taken to calling these outsize wildfires “climate fires.”

We can’t blame lots more big ones on more careless campers or more arsonists because the total annual numbers didn’t increase. What seems to have happened is that fire weather (the combination of hot-dry-windy) lasts longer and burns more acres.

Annual acres burned is up almost 300%.

--

--

--

What’s behind the new extreme weather — and what makes it a climate emergency, requiring that we clean up the 50% excess of CO2 in the air overhead.

Recommended from Medium

How our social environment shapes our sustainable consumption choices

A girl stood outside a large pink building

Hope Scrolling: China coming through on Climate

Solar panels on a sunny day

Fragile cities are being inundated with people fleeing the impacts of climate change.

San Antonio and Sulfur Dioxide

Small Change, Big Impact

A Just Transition Must Include Climate Change Adaptation

Realising a circular economy together is essential for climate action

An open cast copper mine transforms the landscape and shows the scale of mining. Image overlaid by the text Leeds at COP26.

Harnessing The Power Of Nature’s Carbon Sinks

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
William H. Calvin

William H. Calvin

President, CO2Foundation.org. Professor emeritus, University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. Author, many books on brains, human evolution, climate

More from Medium

Underwater Soundscapes: What Can We Learn by Listening? Meet GLUBS

Building better resilience to desert locust and other transboundary threats amid the climate crisis

Chapter 2. Climate Tipping Points With Some Geology on the Side

Climate change is Polarized