Wildfires and Smoke Wreak Havoc in Oregon and Washington

Click here to watch the west coast burn.

Oregon and Washington are caught in the grip of uncontrolled fires that are causing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate on short notice.  Indeed, as The Washington Post described it in a headline, “Much of the West Is On Fire, Illustrating the Dangers of Climate Extremes.”  And that is not an exaggeration — The Post reported that on Tuesday “red-flag warnings signaling a high fire-threat stretched along the entire West Coast from the U.S. border with Mexico to Canada, including much of California and Nevada, western Oregon and Washington, along with western Arizona and southern Utah.”  Millions of Americans are now dealing with wildfires impairing their air quality — putting at-risk children, the elderly, COVID patients, and asthma sufferers.

Why This Matters:  Did we mention that fire season has not even officially begun yet?  We always connect the dots between the severity of the fires we are seeing now and climate change, but lots of media outlets do not.  And that is a problem, as numerous environmental reporters and media watchdogs have pointed out.  This is our future on a heated planet and we need government action and leadership at the federal level.  Fires don’t respect state borders any more than viruses.  

Oregon and Washington Burning

The Associated Press reported late last night that “windblown wildfires raging across the Pacific Northwest destroyed hundreds of homes in Oregon, the governor said Wednesday, warning it could be the greatest loss of life and property from wildfire in state history.”  Gusts of 50 mph are making it difficult for firefighters to control the blazes.  And this is happening in the part of the country known for being cold and wet.  In fact, the fires are so bad that the precise extent of damage was unclear because so many of the fire zones were too dangerous to survey – they simply cannot get to them, Oregon Deputy State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple told the AP.

Doug Grafe, chief of Fire Protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry said,   “We do not have a context for this amount of fire on the landscape,” he said. “Seeing them run down the canyons the way they have — carrying tens of miles in one period of an afternoon and not slowing down in the evening – (there is) absolutely no context for that in this environment.”

Governor Jay Inslee of Washington after touring damaged areas said, “This is an extraordinary series of events we have suffered,” Inslee said. “The low humidity, the high temperatures, the winds have all combined to stymie some of the most aggressive firefighting activities of our courageous firefighters.”  In just the last couple of days in Washington state, more than 480,000 acres have burned.

Up Next

Historic Floods Threaten Sudan’s Economy and Ancient Pyramids

After heavy seasonal rains late last month and in early September, in Sudan, the White Nile and the Blue Nile, its main tributary, have flooded, causing the death of over 100 people and the damage of over 100,000 homes, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. 

Why this matters:  Climate change-related flooding is devastating the country. More than 500,000 people have been affected in 17 of the country’s 18 states.

Continue Reading 472 words
China’s Surprise Commitment to Be Carbon Neutral by 2060

China’s Surprise Commitment to Be Carbon Neutral by 2060

Yesterday at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to achieve “carbon neutrality before 2060” with the aim of hitting peak emissions before 2030. China had choice words for the Trump administration and its complete lack of international leadership on climate change action. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang […]

Continue Reading 445 words
The Wealthiest 1% Create Twice the CO2 Emissions of the Poorest 50%

The Wealthiest 1% Create Twice the CO2 Emissions of the Poorest 50%

The world’s richest one percent cause more than double the CO2 of the poorest 50% according to a new study from Oxfam. From 1990 to 2015, CO2 emissions rose by 60%; experts saw the wealthiest one percent’s emissions rise three times more than those of the poorest half during that period.

 Why this matters: While the wealthiest indulge in luxuries that contribute more to climate change, a federal report found that the poor will be among the earliest victims of climate crises and will be impacted the most.

Continue Reading 469 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.