Thousands Flee California Wildfires
by Sebastian Stelios
September 2, 2009
Greenpeace’s icebreaker-class research ship, the Arctic Sunrise, is currently on an expedition to document the impacts of global warming on Greenland’s glaciers, polar bears, and native peoples.
But, as California burns and another major hurricane barrels toward the West coast, we can say with some certainty that we are already witnessing the effects of global warming in our very own backyard.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared states of emergency in several counties as eight separate wildfires continue to ravage The Golden State. One of the fires in the mountains north of Los Angeles has exploded to more than triple its size since Sunday, scorching over 121,000 acres of forest and putting at least 12,500 homes at risk.
The governor has ordered mandatory evacuations in all of the affected areas as thousands of firefighters work to contain the wildfires. Many have been injured and, over the weekend, the inferno claimed the lives of two men who were bravely battling the flames.
While the causes of the California wildfires remain unknown, their unrelenting ferocity is being blamed on recent temperatures, which have been in the triple-digits in some inland Los Angeles areas. Hundreds of thousands of acres have already burned this summer, the worst damage in years, and researchers expect that figure to rise well above average before the season is over.
California is also in the middle of one of its most active hurricane seasons in decades. There have already been ten named storms this summer, seven of which have occurred during the month of August. As thousands flee the wildfires, Hurricane Jimena is spinning its way toward the Baja California coastline. The storm is currently listed as a Category 4, with powerful winds over 155 miles per hour, but some are predicting that Jimena will reach Category 5 before it hits land.
Scientists have been telling us that, as the planet continues to get warmer, we can expect an increased frequency and intensity of both summer forest fires and hurricanes. It is now painfully clear that global warming is upon us, whether we like it or not.
We have been warned that the only way to stop runaway climate change and prevent the worst impacts of global warming is with a new international climate treaty that would reduce global warming pollution 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020.
But, despite his inaugural pledge to “return science to its rightful place,” President Obama has put the full support of his administration behind a climate bill that gives billions to the coal industry – the number one source of global warming pollution in the U.S. – and only calls for a 4% reduction in emissions by 2020.
We now have less than 100 days until the U.N. Climate Convention in Copenhagen, where the new international climate treaty must be agreed upon. Please TAKE ACTION now, and tell the President to become a leader in the battle against global warming.