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Tweet from OFA linking climate change to wildfires
President Obama's Science Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, has a new, concise video explaining the connection of climate change to the growing number of wildfires. The White House sent the above tweet. In May, the National Climate Assessment included this summary:
Hotter and drier weather and earlier snow melt mean that wildfires in the West start earlier in the spring, last later into the fall, and burn more acreage.
And the Arizona Republic reported on July 26:
The cost of fighting wildfires has nearly quadrupled since three decades ago, and to feed the mounting expenses, the U.S. Forest Service has been forced to tap into funds that would help mitigate future fire damage.

A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that federal fire-management efforts are disproportionately skewed in favor of fire suppression, costing more than $1 billion every year since 2000.

The study, "Playing with Fire," posits that climate change is "producing hotter, drier conditions in the American West, which contribute to more large wildfires and longer wildfire seasons.

You can see the video below the fold.

The report from the UCS can be found here, and the introductory page includes this:

The risk to people and their homes is rising as a result, a growing danger made worse by the increasing number of homes and businesses being built in and near wildfire-prone areas. Past fire suppression and forest management practices have also led to a build-up of flammable fuel wood, which increases wildfire risks.

Costs are soaring in response. The expense of fighting wildfires and protecting life and property from harm is nearly four times greater than it was 30 years ago and has exceeded $1 billion every year since 2000 (in 2012 dollars).

Other costs, including the impact on public health, property, ecosystems, and livelihoods, are significant, often far exceeding firefighting costs.

The White House video is here:

Originally posted to Laurence Lewis on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:21 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Obama and his doublespeak. Two weeks ago (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    One Pissed Off Liberal

    he opened the eastern seaboard to oil exploration. Today he is  concern trolling about climate change on Twitter. We're not stupid. Mr. President.

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:28:24 AM PDT

  •  save the trees and the water and the salmon (6+ / 0-)

    eliminate including especially the corporate wastes of nature
    leave the poisons in the ground
    and don't add more (disfrack)

    and set hemp free

    Stop Coddling Republicans. Fight. Give Them Nil. No Comity. No Courtesy. They Have Forfeited Any Expectation Of Civility. Treat Them Exactly As They Deserve. With Disdain. With Ostracism. We Are Democrats, Not Doormats!

    by renzo capetti on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:45:12 AM PDT

  •  Cue the bulging neck veins and purple outrage (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jan4insight, Calamity Jean

    on the Reich, er Right.

  •  Something Left and Right MIGHT agree on.. (7+ / 0-)

    is the systematic removal of fuels from the overstuffed forests. There are roads already, which can be removed AFTER the fuels are reduced, because many of the roads were built as fire suppression and clearcut logging operations. We could use this as a reason to eliminate roads AND put Fire Management Systems in place for the forseeable future. Of course, we will have to concede some removal or harvest of wood products as the process goes along, namely small, overcrowded and overgrown areas for poles, fencing and chips/pulp.

    Nevertheless, if I were the Chief of the US Forest Service today, which I am not, I would convene several working groups to work on these absolute emergency measures. It can also be a jobs program for young people, who desperately need paychecks, and it would be self-sustaining based on the sales of chips, pulp and small logs.

    We need bold leadership. What we get is more Conventional Thinking bounded by rigid attitudes. Time to get over ourselves and start solving problems.

    Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

    by OregonOak on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 04:12:27 PM PDT

    •  I like your idea, OregonOak. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BelgianBastard, hbk
    •  management is complicated (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      years ago the US did operate on the theory that forest fires were not necessary, the we could manage the fuel and eliminate fires.  Over time it has been shown that fires preform a vital function in the management of the ecosystem.

      Bold leadership is going to place the values of lives over the value of mere property that is in the way of the natural wildfire.  Yes, when a fire occurs we have to have to people to manage it, but to do that we must have funds.  That means people who choose to live in these areas also have to either fund the firefighting or accept the loss and pay for insurance.  Right now we mostly have niether, as shown by the number of firefighter who die in the line of duty but whose family are denied benefits.

      In addition, at the moment reforestation is the best solution for carbon sinks over the next generation.  Yes trees will die and decompose putting the carbon back into the atmosphere, but that is a hundred year process.  I have been to other countries where reforestation is policy, and it has helped.  We will eventually be a place where we can bury the carbon, but right now that produces almost as much carbon as it buries.  This does not mean we do not selectively cut, just that we don't cut everything in the name of preventing wildfires.  The is just too Ayn Rand.

      So right now we need trees.  We need lots of trees.  We need to let the natural cycle takes it course to keep out ecological diversity.  We need to tell those people who want to live in dangerous areas that we are no going to pay for their choices, and they are going to have take some god dammed responsibility for their own lives.

      She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing. -Kurt Vonnegut Life is serious but we don't have to be - me

      by lowt on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 04:54:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Something to consider.. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hbk, where4art, DonMahoney

        Preventing fires by thinning overcrowded stands of timber actually can increase carbon sequestration by making the remaining trees much more vital, grow faster and capture more carbon. Old trees are much better carbon sinks than single-age stands of young trees. This will help the process along.

        The other project is to gather as much of the dead stuff which acts like tinder for a hot, destructive fire, for chipping and use as mulch in the forest. This retains moisture, and that also promotes growth. Another thing to do is to convert forest floor waste to char, and distribute it over the thinned patches. This promotes soil and bacteria growth and will reduce disease and increase carbon uptake.

        Thinning in the past was usually "commercial" thinning. It looked like a clearcut with a few scraggly trees standing. Pre Commercial thinning is much more what I am thinking, with 50-70 percent of the trees remaining. These stands are very fire resistant, especially since the trees have more moisture and are less likely to combust violently and explosively.

        In any event, preventing fires is critical to retaining carbon in the ground. Most carbon goes into the atmosphere in a fire, and that makes our problems worse.

        Homeowners should take their own risks in fire zones, yet the political pressure is intense when a fire approaches. Easy to say, almost impossible to do. Government Insurance programs for partial recovery of assets can help. This means you will take a loss, but you will be able to move out and start over if a fire takes your home.

        We can do all these things, because they are not particularly technical. And we must do them if we want to reduce the flood of carbon into the atmosphere and sequester more quickly.

        Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

        by OregonOak on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 06:34:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I would argue that forest ecosystems have (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          where4art, OregonOak

          evolved in such a way that fire is beneficial. Some seeds, in fact, require the intense heat of a forest fire in order to germinate.

          So any plan for thinning should include a system that mimics this, say by re-forestation in the very areas where thinning has taken place. Otherwise, the ecosystem isn't rejuvenated for long term health.

          •  Right..but 100 years of fuel accumulation (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Wes Kobernick

            means we have to correct that first before we go in with fire management that mimics nature. We have created a totally artificial forest ecosystem with our practices, and we have to correct it before we re-introduce fire. Otherwise, that highly piled and combustible fuel will destroy soil and much of the soil organisms.

            Once again, we have piled up a debt; a debt to the soil and soil nutrients of our forests, and we have a lot of hand labor to do before we start to recover the original ecosystem health. Unintended Consequences. Its what we do, because we are not that wise or informed.

            Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

            by OregonOak on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 09:58:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm not so sure anymore we know what the (0+ / 0-)

              original ecosystem was. The one periodically burnt by us before the arrival of Europeans, or the one left to grow more unmolested after the Euro introduced diseases eliminated nine out of ten inhabitants, or the one before we wiped out most large animals a few thousand years ago, or the one before the very recent glaciation or when.

              We have people who study forests, maybe in consultation with them decide what sort of forest we want and go from there. I could think of many things my ideal forest would have.

              “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

              by ban nock on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 05:30:04 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, there is an argument that we "cant go back" (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ban nock

                and its probably right. There will never be the "same" forest as there was when Europeans arrived. That being said, we also know that when we set out to plan and create a forest, actually several dozen forests which exist in North America, and several dozen varieties within each one, we are trying to work from incomplete information. We simply do not know all the feeback loops, interactions, proportions of soil organizms, climate adaptations and genetic diversity within each one. It would be a project of centuries of research to put all the pieces together and "design" the optimal forest for each subregion.

                We probably will get to that point in several more centuries, but we have not really started. Our motivation has not been to create health, but to create commercial opportunities. Those are two different questions with two different sets of answers.

                In our present, the best we should do is to allow the remaining (and there is good evidence that this happens when we allow it) genetic biomes to recover, repopulate themselves with the organisms which like to grow there and flourish, see if it creates health for all of us,  and find a new stasis, study it, manage parts of it for commercial opportunity in sustainable quantities, and then go forward from there.

                In other words, we have to stop the changes we are making, reverse most of them, and see how the biomes in the forest create a stasis of biological diversity, because that means stability. And prosperous.

                Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

                by OregonOak on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 06:19:41 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I thought that's where we are now? (0+ / 0-)

                  We just let nature do it's own thing, and now we have forests we don't particularly like full  of dead trees. And isn't nature constantly changing? Just letting things go won't necessarily allow forests to revert to any specific time frame. Do you mean before Euros actually came west in the mid late 1800s or before we came to this continent? Two very different things. Why not before humans came to this continent at all? and where to get the animals that had such great effects on the land?

                  Allowed to do their own thing around here we get lifeless stands of lodgepole, overcrowded and ripe for burning. Empty of most animal species.

                  Isn't nature in flux? Always changing? As taught in ecology class?

                  “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

                  by ban nock on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 07:30:26 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Yes. It is. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ban nock

                    When we suppress fires, as is done in the Far North just as it is in the Temperate Forests, we see a proliferation of fuels, and then a wipeout of the forest of densely packed, small same age trees. It is very likely that there is a stasis optimal state in the far north which allows black spruce trees to become mixed age, less dense and more diverse in organisms of the soil. As an orchardist, there is more and more evidence that pruning even dead wood from trees to make it look lush and tidy only hurts productivity. We dont know how, but dead branches and an untidy look seem to be a more stable system. We should not go by how a system looks to judge its health. This is a fallacy.

                    Remember, we are not so much growing forests as growing soil, where most of the biomass, diversity, interactivity, health and stability is. What we see is the tip of the carbon iceberg, and the tip of nearly all other nutrients and genetic mass in the forest environment.

                    Whatever we see on the surface pales to what we cannot see beneath the surface, and our goal should be to make sure that the above ground system does not destroy or permanently alter in large ways the below ground system. That ensures stability and health, by and large.

                    The changes we see are slow and adaptive, and these environments do change. That should not be a reason to accelerate willy nilly, by fire suppression, fuel buildups, climate changes, chemicals, genetic engineering, or bulldozing and scraping, the changes when we are unsure about its effects on the stability of the soil biomes we are dealing with.

                    This is not about "restoration" to some previous Pre-European contact idea. This is about taking forests where they are today, largely not healthy, largely less diverse, largely managed only for commercial opportunity, and studying the interactions of all the variables which promote health. We cannot be impatient. This will take centuries of careful analysis, but we know so little at this point, we need to be very cautious about continuing to change these biomes radically to satisfy our sense of order. We need to let these recover, just as we let the body recover after a trauma or injury, and let life re establish its most stable healthy state. Then we have a platform to work from in the future.

                    All these things are being done now, but slowly. It is possible the Far North Black Spruce Forests are doing fine, untidy as they are, and we need to figure out how to use that steady growth and health state for our own benefit and the benefit of all the other species there. This is a process, not an end with a definite goal. We are learning to actually SEE the process for the first time, and this is the radical change from the past which we should congratulate ourselves on.

                    Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

                    by OregonOak on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 08:14:15 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

    •  absolutely love your proposal (0+ / 0-)

      I fear the Repugnants would not allow for the programs to be funded. It's just another of the myriad reasons to vote them out!

      •  Yes, its very.. hopeful of me. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But, when we decide to actually, you know.. solve problems, these ideas will be brought out and put into effect, because it is the only way to deal with the destruction we have caused.

        It assumes one is not an Apocalyptic, working as hard as one can to ensure the End of Times, and that is too much to assume when one is a Republican.

        Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

        by OregonOak on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 08:21:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  New post (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, BelgianBastard, hbk

    "The Democrats and the Republicans are equally corrupt where money is concerned. It's only in the amount where the Republicans excel." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 04:14:03 PM PDT

  •  how land and labor tenures converge for deniers (0+ / 0-)

    in the Daily Cellar

    3 June 2014 Professor David B. South of Auburn University says that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have nothing to do with the amount and size of wildfires. It’s largely forest management that determines the number and size of wildfires, not global warming.

    “Policy makers who halt active forest management and kill ‘green’ harvesting jobs in favor of a ‘hands-off’ approach contribute to the buildup of fuels in the forest,” South told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday...

    Read more:

    He specializes in nursery management, seedling quality, and regeneration and Alabama Forest Owners' Association, Inc. frequently calls on him for advice.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." (@eState4Column5)

    by annieli on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 04:19:58 PM PDT

  •  Washington just had biggest fire in state history (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hbk, Laurence Lewis

    I flew over a complex of 4 fires burning in the eastern Cascade Mountains on my return flight from Detroit. The valleys were blanketed in a sea of smoke.

    But the most impressive thing was I could clearly see smoke from the fires in Washington as my plane was still climbing over the Detroit area.

    "The Democrats and the Republicans are equally corrupt where money is concerned. It's only in the amount where the Republicans excel." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 04:21:15 PM PDT

  •  I was really happy when Holdren was appointed (6+ / 0-)

    to this post. I knew him (casually) a couple decades ago at Cal, and always admired his enormous intelligence, and his exceptional ability to state scientific findings in an intriguing and convincing way, without dumbing them down.

  •  The part about the republicans opposing fire (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, NoMoreLies, DonMahoney

    control funding should probably be a part of this diary.

  •  The scientists are wrong. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My mom said it's the End Times.


    •  Well, I have to say us hairless apes are giving... (0+ / 0-)

      it the old college try, sigh.

      At least were aren't at the level where we can wipe out all life, so if qe screw this up, some other species will get a chance, and maybe become truly intelligent lifeforms.

      I ride the wild horse .

      by BelgianBastard on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 05:02:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Drudge Report Exclusive! (0+ / 0-)

    White House Admits Wildfires Cause Global Warming!

    Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

    by Boundegar on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 04:47:53 PM PDT

  •  But it's another lie (0+ / 0-)

    Wildfire and forest fires are at an all time low

    Stats from the National Interagency Fire Center
    Year-to-date statistics
    2014 (1/1/14 - 8/8/14)    Fires: 35,085    Acres: 2,401,651
    2013 (1/1/13 - 8/8/13)    Fires: 29,205    Acres: 2,558,081
    2012 (1/1/12 -8/8/12)    Fires: 39,427    Acres: 4,884,522
    2011 (1/1/11 - 8/8/11)    Fires: 46,783    Acres: 6,297,394
    2010 (1/1/10 - 8/8/10)    Fires: 41,310    Acres: 2,152,272
    2009 (1/1/09 - 8/8/09)    Fires: 59,704    Acres: 4,863,797
    2008 (1/1/08 - 8/8/08)    Fires: 56,424    Acres: 3,971,076
    2007 (1/1/07 - 8/8/07)    Fires: 58,656    Acres: 5,455,244
    2006 (1/1/06 - 8/8/06)    Fires: 73,193    Acres: 5,905,804
    2005 (1/1/05 - 8/8/05)    Fires: 40,209    Acres: 5,109,149
    2004 (1/1/04 - 8/8/04)    Fires: 50,382    Acres: 5,584,582
    Annual average prior 10 years
    2004-2013                    Fires: 49,529    Acres: 4,678,193

    Who to believe, the Government or the White House?

    Maybe they should coordinate a little better.

    •  I'd be interested to see a larger data set... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laurence Lewis, where4art

      say over the past 100 years if such data were available. A ten year chunk doesn't give the full picture. It's like the deniers using the last ten years to say the Earth is cooling. Not saying this is your intention, but these sorts of statistics always have peaks and valleys. It is the trend that matters.

    •  the lie is yours (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      cherry-picking just the past ten years. try a longer time frame. from 1960 through 1999 there was one year on record with more than 7 million acres burned. since then there have been 8 years. despite much improved firefighting.

      i'd also like to know what you mean by "another lie." although i can guess.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 09:23:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wonder: do these stats include all (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Laurence Lewis

        wildfires, or just the ones coordinated by the agencies in the NIFC? And another thing: what about fires that occur between the second week of August and the end of each year??

        This is no small detail. For instance, since my house was very close to last year's Rim Fire (in and around Yosemite, the third-largest fire in California history), I see that the 2013 stats leave out the 257,314 acres consumed in that conflagration (which began on August 17 and wasn't fully contained for two months), let alone the damage in other fires that were raging at the time, most of which were managed by CalFIRE, not the National Forest Service or other federal agencies.

        It just doesn't look like these stats are complete.

  •  More and larger fires due to warming is not news (0+ / 0-)

    it's been known this would happen for a while. The thing is to plan and accommodate for it, there is no stopping it.

    Newly burnt areas create lots of habitat for wildlife, so there are benefits too. If we hadn't stopped logging fires would be smaller and easier to control. Instead we let tons of dead wood accumulate.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 05:39:37 AM PDT

  •  I suspect that we will Darwin ourselves (0+ / 0-)

    and within 100-200 years make the planet uninhabitable for humanity.  Then the planet will slowly reset and wait for the next 'intelligent' species to arise.  I sincerely hope they will be more intelligent than the species that polluted, nuked, consumed or biowarfared itself out of existence despite plenty of warning and time to change.

    I'm 49. When I was born, there were 3.5 billion people on the planet.  Now there's more than 7 billion.  If I live to be 80, there's gonna be 10-11 bilion of us.  All competing for and polluting the same air and water.  I don't see much hope in that scenario.

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