By Matheus Maynard
A dark Wednesday, extreme heat waves, and ravaging wildfires on the West Coast are some of the urgent reminders of the climate crisis.
Orange- Colored Skies
San Franciscans woke up in the dark. Not because of a power outage, but due to an orange dark sky caused by the more than 5 million acres that have burned since the start of the wildfire season on the West Coast.
It was Wednesday morning, Sep. 9, that the skies all over the Bay Area resembled an apocalyptic setting from a science fiction film. Hazy, smoke-covered dark orange skies reminded San Franciscans of the wildfires that are ravaging the West Coast of the United States.
More than 4 million acres have burned across Western states causing the deaths of more than 30 people according to BBC News. Some of the fires in the Bay Area were caused by an unusual dry lightning storm that took place a couple of weeks ago.
“Our recent lightning storm has left a lasting impression on the Bay Area and the rest of California with more than 350 new lightning-sparked fires from nearly 7,000 lightning strikes near the coast and inland on Sunday,” reported NBC Bay Area.
However, this is not arbitrary. It has become so frequent that Californians have come to expect wildfire season every year for the past few years. It’s something that Californians must deal with after the summer months. Wildfires are usually fueled by human action, but some natural phenomena increase the likelihood of these events. Santa Ana and Diablo winds are examples of some of these natural features. But they alone aren’t to blame.
Politics vs. Science
For decades, scientists have been warning the world about the dangers of climate change, and the world has been ignoring it for the most part. International efforts like the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Agreement have pushed the debate in the right direction, but they also haven’t been as effective as they need to be.
Politicians sitting on opposite sides of the aisle have been engaged in political fights far too long, and have completely taken for granted the urgency for climate action. This topic, like many others within policy-making, have become the targets of polarized political agendas.
Ignorance regarding climate change is a major concern; in 2015, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) brought a snowball to the Senate floor trying to discredit global warming.
On the other side of the spectrum, some politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have been pushing for the Green New Deal for quite some time, but political shenanigans pose obstacles for this package.
Too Hot to Handle
One consequence of climate change is that climate events will become more extreme and drastic. Wildfires can spread more easily with dry vegetation, lack of rainfall, and extreme heat waves, events that we have seen way too often in recent years in California.
Death Valley, in Southern California, recorded the highest temperature on Earth. On Aug. 17, the hottest place on Earth recorded a reading of 130 degrees. “If that reading — the equivalent of 54 degrees Celsius — is verified by climate scientists, a process that could take months, it would be the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on earth,” reported by The New York Times last month.
If that’s not alarming enough, because Death Valley had already been infamously known as the hottest place on the planet, San Franciscans have been experiencing more frequent heat waves. ABC7News reported on Sep. 6 recording-breaking temperatures for this date, exceeding 100 degrees all over the Bay Area.
Climate change is no longer a future threat; climate change is happening right now, and we are far from prepared to deal with it. President Donald Trump has also been one of the biggest challenges when it comes to climate action. His administration has not only been disastrous on managing the COVID-19 pandemic but has also proven to be inefficient and favorable to fossil fuel lobbyists.
The direness of this crisis will be defined by our failure to act in the past, our tardiness to act now, and whether the response will be effective enough to prevent major catastrophic changes to our livelihood.
Climate change cannot be ignored anymore, it’s no longer invisible. It spits ashes on our faces quite literally. What we do next will define our future.
It happens all around the world and we must act now. It happened in Brazil, it happened in Australia, and it’s happening every year now in America. Climate change is not a hoax. It’s something we can actively work on when we elect an administration who believes in science. Our vote matters for our planet.