Science Points To Climate Change As Reason For California Wildfires
“What we can conclude with a great deal of confidence now is that climate change is making these events more extreme.”
“You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story,” President Trump said while addressing the press in Paradise, California. “I was with the president of Finland and he said: ‘We have a much different — we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation, and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. And they don’t have any problem,” he continued on the Saturday, November 17th event.
New York Times detailed the Finnish response to the Presidents comments:
Raking for leaves and needles is not a normal feature of Finnish fire prevention, according to Rami Ruuska, a forest fires expert at the Finnish Interior Ministry. Instead, Finns focus on removing dead trees from the forest floor — where possible.
“Of course, we have a big country and we can’t do it everywhere,” Mr. Ruuska said.
President Sauli Niinisto of Finland said, in an interview published Sunday in a Finnish newspaper, that in a brief conversation in Paris on Nov. 11, he had explained the virtues of Finnish forest management to Mr. Trump. But he didn’t recall mentioning raking.
The secret to the Finns’ forest management system lies instead in its early warning system, aerial surveillance system and network of forest roads, said Professor Henrik Lindberg, a forest fires researcher at the Häme University of Applied Sciences, a college in southern Finland.
At times of high incendiary risk, the Finnish authorities are highly effective at delivering warnings across most forms of media, Mr. Lindberg said.
According to readily available data, climate change has played a vital role in the forest areas in the United States vulnerability to fire, despite multiple claims by the President in downplaying climate science. Since the 1980s, studies suggest climate change has caused a double in vulnerable forest area, with expectations of growth. The 2016 Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests study provides an ominous warning, “…This analysis suggests that anthropogenic climate change will continue to chronically enhance the potential for western US forest fire activity while fuels are not limiting.”
On August 6th of this year, Michael Mann, an atmospheric science professor at Penn State University gave a strong declaration on PBS NewsHour:
We’re not saying that climate change is literally causing the events to occur. What we can conclude with a great deal of confidence now is that climate change is making these events more extreme. And it’s not rocket science, you warm the atmosphere it’s going to hold more moisture, you get larger flooding events, you get more rainfall. You warm the planet, you’re going to get more frequent and intense heat waves. You warm the soils, you dry them out, you get worse drought. You bring all that together and those are all the ingredients for unprecedented wildfires.
"We're not saying that climate change is literally causing the events to occur. What we can conclude, with a great deal of confidence now, is that climate change is making these events more extreme," @MichaelEMann says of events like droughts, heatwaves and fires taking place now pic.twitter.com/N0LsS7OJge
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) August 6, 2018
The Human presence diminishes the importance of climate in driving fire activity across the United States report details the nuance in combating wildfires and their relations with climate change, “Although climate change may play a significant role in altering future fire regimes, geographical context and human influence should also be accounted for in management and policy decisions.”
The report would add:
Climate change may indeed be a concern for those areas with strong fire-climate relationships. However, our results suggest that, in some areas, anthropogenic factors diminish the influence of climate on fire activity. Thus, to effectively understand how and where fire regimes may change in the future, anthropogenic factors must become a larger part of the conversation relative to national fire policy and management. In addition to incorporating anthropogenic factors such as land use into future fire projections, it will also be important to consider alternative management decisions in the context of human development. For example, land use or conservation planning decisions have the potential to alter fire risk to structures as well as biodiversity outcomes.
The Forest disturbances under climate change report also paints a bleak outlook on how climate change will affect forests in the future:
…Warmer and drier conditions particularly facilitate fire, drought and insect disturbances, while warmer and wetter conditions increase disturbances from wind and pathogens. Widespread interactions between agents are likely to amplify disturbances, while indirect climate effects such as vegetation changes can dampen long-term disturbance sensitivities to climate. Future changes in disturbance are likely to be most pronounced in coniferous forests and the boreal biome. We conclude that both ecosystems and society should be prepared for an increasingly disturbed future of forests.