Dave Glubetich: Are wildfires really getting worse because of climate change?
As a native Californian, for many years I’ve always been told the same story about wildfires.
And what I was told was true then and true today. In a dry winter with little rain, shrubberies, grasses and trees will die and dry in early summer and be prone to wildfires. In extremely wet winters shrubs and grasses grow taller and provide even more fuel for late summer fires.
Both statements are true. As well as our concerns every year about potential devastating wild fires.
What isn’t true is to blame our recent California fires on climate change, which our past and current governors are doing ad nauseam, as well as an article in the March 29 edition of The Union entitled “Wildfires likely to get worse with climate change.”
But let’s step back and actually think. What causes the overwhelming highest number of our fires? People … and we have way too many of them. Almost every one of our most destructive fires, in one way or another, are caused by people.
With a much larger population, stretching throughout the state, more and more high-power lines are needed. And when storms, high winds or fallen trees knock them down, fires are almost always ignited. There is also a lot more fuel today to feed our fires. Our state population has grown from 10.5 million in 1950 to nearly 40 million today. And the many houses, built just 20 or 30 feet from a neighbor’s house, and fully landscaped, are excellent fodder for fires.
While it’s true some fires are started by lightning strikes, nearly all major fires today are caused in some way by people … by over growth, carelessness, arson or maybe just being where they shouldn’t be and doing something they shouldn’t be doing.
The recent Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise was most likely caused by fallen power lines. The destructive Carr Fire in Redding was cause by an idiot (people) driving a car on tire rims showering sparks into dry grass.
Despite recent tragedies which are all too common, our governors (both past and current) are blaming it all on climate change. Yet they are the ones who have supported policies to leave forests in their natural condition, eliminating controlled burning and other forest thinning methods, leaving more fuel available for fires.
I would love a chance to ask our governors a single question: Name one California fire that you can truly blame on man-made climate change?
The problem today is most people only think in the present. Only recognizing and believing what we they see today. But there is a whole lot more to every story.
The most destructive and largest fires in U.S. history weren’t in California. The great Chicago fire in 1871 left 100,000 people homeless. In 1910 the largest single fire (primarily in Idaho) burned more than 3 million acres.
We shake in fear when we hear about deadly tornados and hurricanes and blame climate change. But the deadliest tornados were in 1925 when a swarm of tornados hit six central U.S. cities, including one that leveled towns in a 219-mile path, killing 695 people.
In 1900, a Category 4 hurricane obliterated the island of Galveston, Texas, killing an estimated 10,000 residents.
And what about droughts? What we experienced a few years ago in California was nothing next to what the great plains states suffered in the 1930s. Land was actually blown away, leading to the name the great Dust Bowl. But while Oklahoma was suffering through their record driest rainfall, California was experiencing record wet months. Go figure.
Yet we have this thing about going outside on a hot summer day, and saying “dang, it’s hot today, it must be global warming.”
I think everyone can agree we have climate change. And it’s been going on for thousands of years. But please, don’t blame the cows.
Dave Glubetich lives in Penn Valley.
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