By Christopher Flavelle at NYT > Science
The same manufactured landscapes that have enabled California’s tremendous growth, building the state into a $3 trillion economy that is home to one in 10 Americans, have also left it more exposed to climate shocks, experts say.
Still, the manufactured systems that support the state’s population and economy have left the state especially vulnerable. The wildfires are only the latest example of how climate change can cause engineered landscapes to go awry. Those blazes are partly the result of hotter temperatures and drier conditions, scientists say, which have made it easier for vegetation to ignite, causing fires to become bigger and more intense.But the intensity of those fires also reflects decades of policy decisions that altered those forests, according to Robert Bonnie, who oversaw the United States Forest Service under President Barack Obama. And the cost of those decisions is now coming due.In an effort to protect homes and encourage new building, governments for decades focused on suppressing fires that occurred naturally, allowing the buildup of vegetation that would provide fuel for future blazes. Even after the drawbacks of that approach became clear, officials remained reluctant to reduce that vegetation through prescribed burns, wary of upsetting residents with smoke or starting a fire that might burn out of control.That approach made California’s forests more comfortable for the estimated 11 million people who now live in and around them. But it has also made them more susceptible to catastrophic fires. “We’ve sort of built up this fire debt,” Mr. Bonnie said. “People are going to have to tolerate smoke and risk.”
article date: 2020 09 20
posted: 2020-09-20 14:10:43
Tags: Bay Area ,climate change,noteworthy links
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