Unnatural disaster

After a summer of record-breaking heat, California is on fire.

This is definitely not the first time that statement has appeared in print. But this summer was hotter. And these fires are worse. And those facts are definitely connected. And this is not an accident.

I have been writing about forest fires in the West for 30 years. Scientists have been predicting that forest fires would worsen as a result of climate change since before I began.

The first U.S. Senate Committee hearings on the topic of “Ozone Depletion, the Greenhouse Effect, and Climate Change” took place in June of 1986. They were convened not by the newly elected Sen. Al Gore, but by Sen. John H. Chafee, a Republican.

“This is not a matter of Chicken Little telling us the sky is falling,” Chafee said at the hearing. “The scientific evidence … is telling us we have a problem, a serious problem.”

As everybody knows, science has gotten much better at proving the situation has gotten much worse. Last October the National Academy of Science made news with a study showing that fully half of the increased fire activity could be blamed on global warming. The New York Times’ story was darkly poetic: “Residents are forced to flee, homes are incinerated, wildlife habitats are destroyed, lives are lost.” While that exact scene played out here in Northern California this week, EPA chief Scott Pruitt announced the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

The following night in Davis, Hillary Clinton read passages from the victory speech she never gave. She had a comprehensive plan for fighting climate change, and a strategy for winning Republican support. I miss centrist Dems like Clinton and liberal Reeps like Chafee.