Year after year, millions of acres burn in the United States. I agree that it’s important to stay objective and not ignore the statistics: over 80% of wildfires are started by people. But, we simply can’t ignore the impact that climate change has either. The number of annual large fires has tripled. Furthermore, the average wildfire season is three and a half months longer than it was a couple of decades ago. Some things are just not up for debate. Some things must change, and the first step towards change is getting informed.
Frequent droughts, as a consequence of meteorological shifts, play a crucial role, and will only exacerbate the issue at hand. Though, they’re a clear consequence of our planet getting hotter. Carbon emissions are through the roof and a certain individual backing out of measures taken certainly won’t help. As long as there are oxygen and fuel in the form of vegetation, natural fires will occur, but the third influencing factor is heat, which makes said fuels combust more easily.
Wildfires have always been a part of natural ecology, however, we’d be remiss to not address their growing severity and frequency. The Mendocino Complex fire, for starters, is far too recent to ignore – a glaring denouement of a frightening trend. If we zoom out of our US-centric observation, we’ll notice that the rest of the globe is not spared either. During the summer of 2018, the UK, Portugal, and Greece all experienced major countryside fires.
Don’t let yourself get fooled into thinking that wildfires affect only certain geographical regions; wildfires raged as far north as the Arctic, affecting Russia, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. And all of them occurred during continuous heatwaves. Just imagine what would happen if it got to us, Hoosiers.
Rising heat is all-encompassing. It does far more than just serving as a catalyst. Higher temperatures will affect us, humans, too. In urban areas, due to the high concentration of buildings, it can get up to several degrees warmer – a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. This, in turn, can have severe health consequences, increasing the risk of heat exhaustion and consequently, strokes.
It’s a vicious circle; climate change brings about worse wildfires, wildfires continue to augment climate change and the ambit only continues to expand. Significant air pollution is just another consequence of this branching chain reaction. The smoke emitted in combusting vegetation is filled with fine particles, i.e. nanopollutants, as small as 2.5 micrometers.
All hope is not lost, though, since awareness seems to be on the rise, as signified by the uptick in sales of automotive in-vehicle air purifiers per Clean Breathing. It’s a nigh-extraneous point, but it shows people do care for their air quality and are ready to go the extra mile, even if it means spending or relinquishing certain luxuries while prioritizing the important ones. The only thing we can’t afford to relinquish is the fight for a better tomorrow and the preservation of our planet, even before it so blatantly begins to affect us as species.