In my weekly column for World Politics Review, I look at how warnings that a warming planet will alter climate patterns and bring extreme weather events are being borne out in California, and how the Republican Party remains wedded to a policy of “Drill, Baby, Drill,” even if it means “Burn, Baby, Burn.”
California prides itself on being a national and global trendsetter. Unfortunately, the state is also setting the pace for climate change disasters, with searing heat and intense wildfires now regular features of its endless summer. Last Sunday, Aug. 16, the aptly named Furnace Creek ranger station in Death Valley posted the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth, when the thermometer hit 130 degrees Fahrenheit. That same weekend, lightning strikes north of Lake Tahoe set off the massive Loyalton Fire in desiccated Lassen and Sierra counties, producing a rare “fire tornado” as high winds whipped flames into a violent, all-consuming vortex, sending a pillar of smoke and ash miles into the air. The statewide heatwave resulted in rolling electricity blackouts, a situation Gov. Gavin Newsom called “unacceptable” but was powerless to prevent.
Last week, as smoke from the Loyalton Fire darkened the normally brilliant Sierra Nevada sky and turned Lake Tahoe’s famously blue waters a dull grey, residents and vacationers hunkered down indoors, unable to see across the water, much less enjoy a view that Mark Twain rightly called “the fairest picture the whole earth affords.” They had plenty of company across California, where more than two dozen major fires were raging. Since Jan. 1, the state has experienced 6,754 wildfires, up from about 4,000 this time last year.
Read the full World Politics Review article here.