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Climate Change in the International Context: Not Just California Fires

Article by Aaron J. Cheung,

The Kincade fire in Sonoma County has already spread to over 10,000 acres amid high winds. This fire followed an earlier blaze near Los Angeles and PG&E’s public safety shutoff as a preventive measure to prevent fires. A large number of catastrophic fires forces us to wonder why these fires have flared up. A recent study found that California’s fire problem is likely driven by human-induced warming, resulting in increases in atmospheric aridity, leading to dry fuels in California. These dry fuels make large and disastrous fires much more likely.

These Californian fires should be a wakeup call, and it should do more than make us wonder what other challenges we face and how to address climate change better, but also the disproportionate impact of climate change in other parts of the world. The U.S., one of the early adopters of carbon-producing industry, has had an outsized impact on climate.

The implications of climate change can be disastrous for many. For example, island nations may disappear completely, and those near the costs may be displaced. One study estimates between 72 and 187 million people may be displaced due to rising sea levels by 2100. Economic losses to coastal cities, which must respond to rising sea levels and flooding, would amount to $1 trillion each year by 2050. In places that are becoming increasingly warmer or colder, materials used for infrastructure are no longer adequate. For example, in some areas, heated roads fail to hold up, and, in others, streets have melted.

The U.S. previously pledged to cut emissions to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025 as part of the agreement. On October 23, 2019, President Donald Trump began to officially withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, which Trump called a “one-sided climate accord.” The accord is “one-sided,” just not in a way that makes it unfair to the U.S. When you consider how much of an impact the U.S. has had on climate change and the disastrous effects it has on other countries, and the global ramifications, the U.S. must do more to address these current problems. In some cases, states are individually looking to create policies that might affect national production. For example, California, currently suffering from climate change-induced wildfires, recognizes its commitment and is fighting several legal battles over its emissions policies.



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