Our reaction to the wildfires projects a dangerous future


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Forest Fire in Monrovia, California.

Chloe Shanebrook Wein, Iris News/Feature Editor

The politicization of the California wildfires is not just disturbing, it is a dangerous precedent that will have greater consequences moving forward as climate change continues to worsen.

Every year, California and other states on the West Coast endure dry seasons where the risk of wildfire increases and this year has been particularly bad. In California alone, there were nearly one million more acres burned this year than in the past. The reason why: climate change.

Climate change has caused there to be more days where wildfires are likely to occur. These conditions include longer periods of drought and hotter than usual temperatures. This is evident in some parts of California where the temperature reached nearly 130 degrees in August.  Hotter temperatures lead to greater evaporation of water from the soil and vegetation, making it much more flammable.  

Despite the overwhelming evidence of climate change and witnessing firsthand the impact that it has on our nation, President Donald Trump continues to deny its existence and refuses to look at the science. 

“It’ll start getting cooler. Just you watch,” said Trump on Sep. 14 during a televised summit in California meant to address the wildfire situation. 

This is not how climate change works; the trends in temperatures are what matter, not just singular days, something that Trump refuses to admit. On many occasions, including Mar. 22, 2013, Trump has tweeted things like, “It’s snowing & freezing in NYC. What the hell ever happened to global warming?” More recently on Jan. 20, 2019 he tweeted, “Large parts of the country are suffering from tremendous amounts of snow and near record-setting cold…Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned global warming right now!”

At that same summit, California Governor Gavin Newsom said, “We come from a perspective, humbly, where the science is in, and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real and that is exacerbating this.”

This lack of consensus amongst our nation’s leaders is not helpful to the American people and is certainly not helpful to those being affected by climate-related disasters. Generally, the divide created by climate change is split along party lines, with Republicans echoing the opinions of President Trump and Democrats agreeing with leaders like Newsom.

However, not only is the refusal to listen to science concerning but so is the blaming of an entire state for a disaster that they have little control over.

“I see again the forest fires are starting,” Trump said at a Pennsylvania rally in August. “I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests, there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up.”  Later he threatened the federal aid that California is receiving to fight the fires and protect its citizens, saying, “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.” 

Despite not going through with his threat of withholding aid, even the implication of a federal withdrawal is terrifying. If a precedent is set of leaders punishing states who lean in a different direction politically, the next disaster could be even worse.

As climate change continues, weather patterns, snowstorms, hurricanes and wildfires will progressively get worse and our nation will rely heavily on the federal government to fight against and protect citizens from such events.  Politicizing events like the wildfires currently raging in California is counterproductive and will put lives and property at risk in the future.