Climate Change or Human Error? What is Causing USA’s West Coast Wildfires?


Climate Change or Human Error? What is Causing USA’s West Coast Wildfires?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The year 2020 is in its ninth month but things aren’t starting to look up yet. In addition to the global pandemic, September has brought yet another environmental disaster to a world reeling from a long list of them. The west coast of the United States of America is currently going up in flames, literally. Wildfires are raging, enveloping an area of approximately 130,000 acres and spanning the three states of California, Oregon, and Washington. Residents of multiple towns and cities in the paths of the fires have been evacuated as an emergency measure. In the most tragic figure associated with the wildfires, seven people have died, with officials claiming the death toll could still rise.

The fires, which are not contained to a single area, but rather spread out in clusters all over the USA’s west coast, have been caused by multiple reasons. One of the most ludicrous ones is the El Dorado fire, currently burning over 10,000 acres in California. The El Dorado fire was sparked off by a fireworks display that was meant to be part of the festivities at a gender reveal party for a couple’s expected baby. Other human activities or interference, like exhaust from cars or trees falling into power lines, also contribute to sparking off these fires, which have become a seasonal occurrence in the region.

Even though the fires might be started by human actions, climate change is also thought to play a role in exacerbating their severity. Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee, tweeted: “Climate change is making these fires more frequent, more expensive and far more dangerous. We’re beginning to see the costs of climate inaction. And they are far too high.”

Climate change has also contributed to the record-shattering heat wave that has gripped the USA’s west coast this year. Death Valley in California recently saw the highest reliably recorded air temperature in history, showing how extreme the conditions are becoming on the ground in sensitive regions. The times are changing, and not for the better.