[Editor's Note: One million people have now had to flee from the California wildfires, exacerbated by drought and high winds. This fire tops off a year, where a half-million acres were burned in Greece and 63 people killed, and the tundra has started burning. A new term has been coined for these events: 'Megafires'. Our sympathies go out to all the victims of these climactic disasters and we hope to prevent as many future disasters as possible.]
The fires in southern California have now been blazing for more than a week, forcing more than half a million people to be evacuated between Santa Barbara and the Mexican border. The fires, fueled by thick underbrush, thundering winds and months of dry weather in the region, have devoured more than 800 structures and burned close to 300,000 acres. Residents from the San Diego area huddled in Qualcomm Stadium as the fires creeped closer and closer to their houses, an image reminiscent of the Superdome after hurricane Katrina uprooted hundreds of thousands of people.
Though there have only been a handful of injuries and one death, the hot winds show no sign of letting up. President Bush has declared the fires a national emergency, and directed FEMA to take part in firefighting and recovery efforts.
Our hearts go out to all the people in the region whose lives are being turned upside down by the fires, and especially to the many climate heroes and community organizers in the area. We stand with you.
Suffice it to say that like hurricane Katrina and the wildfires of 2003 that raged across much of the same Southern California scrubland, these fires are just examples of the scale of natural disasters we will continue to see with more frequency.
Climate change, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) writes in their most recent report, is already beginning to cause more frequent and higher intensity floods, hurricanes, droughts and fires. The group of more than 2500 scientists from around the world predicts that if we continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates, the world in 2050 will look more like southern California and New Orleans more of the time.
Let’s make sure that’s not the legacy we leave for the future–one of floods and fires of biblical proportions–join Step It Up or Powershift on November 3, and make sure our politicians get the message on global warming.