By David M. Greenwald
Most of the nation was focused on Wednesday on the revelations from Bob Woodward that President Trump knew in February that COVID was both airborne and dangerous (as though we didn’t know that already) but intentionally downplayed the severity of the disease and pending pandemic. Less than two months before an election, those comments are bombshells, but for those of us on the West Coast, the big story is the impending climate crisis that turned our sky red.
KQED in San Francisco led with: “No, You Didn’t Wake Up to the Apocalypse. Wildfire Smoke Turns Bay Area Sky Orange and Dark.”
“We have multiple layers of clouds down near our regular marine layer,” said Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services. “Up above, we have three or four different layers of smoke coming from a variety of fires as far away as Oregon; some fires to the east of Chico.”
The worst news – the weather service believes we are stuck with this for a while. The smoke has for the most part been around since mid-August when a heat wave combined with rare lightning strikes in the valley started a series of fires. And while there have been times when the smoke has let up, it’s back and now is the worst its been.
The weather services is predicting that the smoke will remain the rest of this week and into next week unless conditions change dramatically – and they aren’t expected to.
In fact, it could get worse as smoke gets pushed into the valley and then starts to descend to the surface as the winds that came up yesterday begin to weaken.
I suppose there is some good news. By 6 pm yesterday, it was already 75 degrees – cooler than it was early in the morning and by 8 pm it was in the 60s, the coolest it’s been in a week.
There is a possibility that a weather system will move through Northern California mid-next week but forecasters are less certain it will be big enough to disperse the smoke.
This is reminder of the world we are entering. The New York Times reports this morning, “Wildfires are ravaging the West — in California alone, five of the largest blazes on record have all struck in just the past four years.”
The Times points out this is a predictable consequence of climate change. And it’s only early September – this isn’t close to being over yet. These days, we might have two months left before there is enough rain to really end the seasonal drought.
While the Times pointed out yesterday, “California’s climate has always been fire prone, the link between climate change and bigger fires is inextricable.”
“This climate-change connection is straightforward: warmer temperatures dry out fuels. In areas with abundant and very dry fuels, all you need is a spark,” said Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “As long as stuff is dry enough and there’s a spark, then that stuff will burn.”
“In pretty much every single way, a perfect recipe for fire is just kind of written in California,” Dr. Williams said. “Nature creates the perfect conditions for fire, as long as people are there to start the fires. But then climate change, in a few different ways, seems to also load the dice toward more fire in the future.”
But while the media has been quick to sensationalize the COVID story, they have been slow to point out that the President has not only failed to act on Climate Change – he has attempted to sow greater doubt on it.
IN 2018, President Trump cast doubt on his own administration’s warning of the devasting effects from climate change.
He said in response to findings that unchecked global warming would wreak havoc on the US economy, “I don’t believe it.”
In 2009, Trump actually signed a full page ad in the New York Times, along with other business leaders, expressing support for legislation combating climate change.
“If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet,” the statement said.
But since he’s been President, he has issued a slew of statements playing up the doubt.
“IT’s freezing in New York – where the hell is global warming?” he tweeted. “The weather has been so cold for so long that the global warming HOAXSTERS were forced to change the name to climate change to keep $ flow!”
At another time he tweeted, “I don’t think it’s a hoax, I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade.”
In January, Inside Climate news noted, “Trump’s first term has been a relentless drive for unfettered fossil energy development. ICN’s 2020 candidate analysis looks at the president’s climate record.”
In March 2017, the President said, “This is the start of a new era in American energy production and job creation. We will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom and allow workers and companies to play on a level playing field for the first time in a long time, a long time. We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.”
In short, what we are seeing unfolding before our very issues is the failure of leadership on climate change from the US. But while the red skies got play, the link to administration policies not so much.
—David M. Greenwald reporting