Bay Briefing: How wildfires are undermining California’s climate progress

Bay Briefing: How wildfires are undermining California’s climate progress

30 November 2018

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USA – The fire may be out in Paradise, but problems are far from over. Not only did the Camp Fire destroy lives and homes, reporter Kurtis Alexander writes, it’s harmed the state’s fight against climate change. And now, flooding caused by heavy rainfall is prompting evacuations around the Butte County town.

The Camp Fire released as much greenhouse gas as all of California’s cars and trucks produce in a week, according to state estimates. That’s relatively small when it comes to worldwide emissions. But last year, the cumulative greenhouse gases released by California fires were equal to about 9 percent of the total generated by human activity statewide.

And the problems don’t end there.

The fires are burning down forests that, when healthy, absorb heat-trapping gas and help stabilize the Earth’s temperature. That absorption is being lost. The effect is what one conservationist calls a “double whammy”: Wildfires add to the planet’s carbon emissions, while also destroying a source of long-term storage for carbon that’s slow to rebuild.

Are California’s forests now giving off more greenhouses gases than they take in? That remains in dispute. But climate scientists agree that the balance is heading in a bad direction.

More fallout from the Camp Fire: California regulators signaled on Thursday that they want an existing safety investigation into PG&E to be expanded to include a review of recent wildfires. Their meeting was interrupted by more than 30 activists blaming the utility for the Camp Fire, chanting “Justice for Paradise.” The utility faces billions of dollars in liability if found culpable for the fire.


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