Wildfires and climate change

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The smoke plume from the fast-moving Woolsey Fire encroaching on Malibu on November 9, 2018, as residents evacuate along the Pacific Coast Highway. Photo credit: Cyclonebiskit (CC BY 2.0)

Climate change may be worse for the United States than the Great Depression, according to journalist David Wallace Wells. The increasing size of wildfires in California is current evidence of that grim prediction.

Consider Los Angeles, he says: a floodplain ringed by mountains that are increasingly dry. Wells has a warning for Bel Air, Beverly HIlls and Malibu up through Calabasas and Thousand Oaks. They may be “luxurious and appealing” now but they’re “really right in the line of wildfire… making them incredibly dangerous.”

In Northern California, the entire town of Paradise was destroyed in a region where winds that once lasted a few days every season now often last for two weeks. Wells says this “means that the fire damage can be that much worse and that resources to respond are stretched that much more thin.”

From one end of the state to the other, Wells says, “everybody that lives in the area called ‘the wildland urban interface’ is really vulnerable. And the places they think of as their refuge their home, may not be a refuge at all but quite the opposite--a source of power for fire and therefore a target.”

He warns against the “normalization” of the danger as it grows to abnormal proportions. Inevitably, the conditions that once permitted rebuilding and even expansion will never return.

Credits

Guest:
David Wallace-Wells - New York magazine - @dwallacewells

Host:
Warren Olney

Producer:
Andrea Brody