Center for American Progress

STATEMENT: Dan Weiss on California Wildfires and Global Warming
Press Statement

STATEMENT: Dan Weiss on California Wildfires and Global Warming

By Daniel J. Weiss

The horrific wildfires in southern California have already forced an estimated 1,000,000 people from their homes and destroyed more than 1,300 homes and buildings. Our prayers are with the valiant fire fighters and those people in harms way.

Lack of rain contributed to these fires. This year, Los Angeles went 150 days without measurable rainfall. Scientists predict that global warming will worsen wildfires. The Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that “a warming climate encourages wildfires through a longer summer period that dries fuels, promoting easier ignition and faster spread…North America very likely will continue to suffer serious loss of life and property.” And Science magazine found “evidence that western forest wildfire risks are strongly positively associated with drought concurrent with the summer fire season.”

We can lessen the threat of future calamities by promptly reducing the carbon dioxide pollution that causes global warming. Passage of an energy bill that includes the best fuel economy rules and a renewable electricity standard would reduce global warming pollution by nearly 20 percent by 2030 compared to business as usual.

America’s Climate Security Act, S. 2191, introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA), would reduce global warming pollution by an additional 70 percent by 2050. The addition of several critical provisions to it would achieve greater, faster, and cheaper pollution reductions.

The southern California wildfires will take an enormous human and financial toll. To reduce the likelihood of future similar disasters, we must reduce the carbon pollution that causes global warming. The faster the reductions, the less risk from higher temperatures, drought and more wildfires.