California Examines Practical Solutions to Climate-Driven Wildfires


Statewide forum provides practical strategies for dealing with wildfires, drought and the long-term economic, environmental and social impacts of climate change.

 

As a promotional parter of the 2018 California Adaptation Forum, the Climate Science Alliance is sharing a series of press releases covering key topics to be discussed at the forum next week.

 

SACRAMENTO – California has seen a lot of devastating wildfires recently, and for many people, “fire season” is seemingly never-ending. In fact, California has not gone a month without a wildfire since 2012. The intensity and severity of these fires have been exacerbated by climate impacts, including drought and heat waves.

The destructiveness of the latest series of California wildfires is unprecedented. This summer’s Mendocino Complex (River and Ranch) Fires have burned more than 378,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in California history. Firefighters are also battling several other major fires throughout the state, including the sixth-largest Carr Fire that has burned more than 229,000 acres and destroyed over 1,000 homes.

This follows one of California’s worst fire seasons in 2017, which saw the October Bay Area fires and the Tubbs Fire, the state’s most destructive – with more than 5,600 structures destroyed.

The third biennial California Adaptation Forum, hosted by the Local Government Commission and the State of California, comes to Sacramento on August 27-29. More than 750 policymakers, community leaders and expert practitioners from across California will work through practical strategies for minimizing the severity of these wildfires and their impacts as part of a broader vision for strengthening our state’s environmental and economic resilience to climate change. The Forum is an affiliate event of the Global Climate Action Summit, an international convening to raise ambition for climate action.

“Persistent years of drought and another unprecedented wildfire season highlight the complex challenges we will face with increasing frequency in California,” said Kate Meis, executive director of the Local Government Commission, which organized the forum in partnership with the State of California. “With the stakes rising, the urgency for new, innovative and effective local responses grows every year.”

The Forum program will include a discussion of the latest climate research from California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment. This state report, which will be released on the first day of the Forum, includes a study that found average area burned statewide would increase by 77% by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. With ongoing drought, an escalating tree-mortality crisis, longer periods of extreme heat, increased humidity and higher evaporation rates, massive wildfires are becoming our new norm.

New findings and projections in California’s new assessment build on a large body of research that emphasizes the need to address increasing wildfire risk. The average fire season has increased by 78 days over the last four decades and, in many parts of California, fire season is year-round. Global warming has been drying out forests so much that peak fire seasons across the West have expanded every year by an average of nine days since 2000, according to a study last year by researchers at Columbia University and the University of Idaho.

A 2016 study looked at fire occurrences in the Western United States over the last 40 years using climate modeling and concluded that almost half of burning over the past several decades can be attributed to climate change from anthropogenic sources (human-generated pollution).

How do we combat this in the years to come? The California Adaptation Forum will help state and community leaders chart a more comprehensive and integrated vision by exchanging knowledge about mitigating hazards and restoring our forests while ensuring that California is protecting its most vulnerable community members during these incidents and helping communities build back more resiliently in the aftermath.

“California is leading the nation in recognizing the impact of climate change and is taking action to build a more resilient forest landscape,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, who leads the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). “We are investing greenhouse-gas reduction funds…into on-the-ground projects which will improve forest health and resiliency. The