Is it a cop-out to blame climate change after a natural disaster? | The Tylt
Is it a cop-out to blame climate change after a natural disaster?
California has been in a state of emergency for months now as wildfires ravage the coast. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, "five of the state’s twenty most destructive wildfires occurred within just the last three months of 2017." At this rate, things are only destined to get worse in future years.
This past October, California experienced the most destructive wildfire in the state’s recorded history, claiming over 5,600 structures and 22 lives. Not two months later, yet another major blaze — the Thomas Fire — became the fifth largest on record in the state, having already scorched some 230,000 acres and still burning. The fire is now the largest December wildfire in California’s history.
Many attribute the growing temperatures causing the wildfires to climate change and argue if we don't course-correct soon, it will be too late.
But others argue blaming every natural disaster on climate change is a cop-out. There are many factors that contribute to wildfires, and the scientific community is divided as to how much climate change truly impacted the fires.
Massive December fires are unusual around Los Angeles. But when it comes to humanity’s role in the destructive blazes, scientists say our habit of building in harm’s way may be a bigger factor in the fire’s devastation than rising temperatures due to burning fossil fuels.
Wildfires do occur on their own in many parts of the United States, but humans now ignite the vast majority of them. As more people crowd into neighborhoods next to dry brush and parched forests, the likelihood of an ember from a barbecue grill or a spark from a lawnmower triggering an inferno shoots up.
Virginia Heffernan argues in the Los Angeles Times that blaming climate change is an excuse to not hold ourselves accountable to the many ways in which we contribute to the problem.
Climate change—as a watchword—may have similar associations for those who would deny it or in any case refuse to address it. On the one hand, the phenomenon it denotes lives as clear as day in evidence, facts, studies, measurements, photographs. On the other, the phrase has been loaded with blame. Its real meaning on the thermometer and in the melting ice has gotten lost in a cloud of class associations and insinuations about who exactly are the "anthro" in anthropogenic climate change.