California’s Climate Change Message

Having spent the last 17 years of my life in California, I am no stranger to natural disasters. Earthquakes add a little pizzazz to our everyday lives, and a few times a year we’ll get to breathe in some delicious spicy smoke. In all seriousness though, I’ve watched the progression of climate change in California throughout the last few years and it’s desperate cry for help.


In California’s 2019 wildfire season (Jan. 1, 2019 - Dec. 14, 2019), our state had a total of 7,860 fires that burned through 259,823 acres. To put that in perspective, that’s almost the size of the entire Los Angeles area. Suppression efforts cost us $163,000,000. Nearly 20 years ago on September 12, 2000, LA county’s highest recorded temperature was 99 degrees Fahrenheit. This year it was 121 degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say, there’s a problem here.


This past weekend, Southern California had the Silverado Fire. It started before the break of dawn in the hills behind the community I used to live in. They suspect that electrical wires started the fire. Around this time every year, Southern California has something called the Santa Ana winds. For a few months or so, we have winds so strong that walking can feel a little wobbly, some trees are always guaranteed to come crashing down, and debris is carried everywhere throughout the region. It just happens to peak around October. Obviously, this didn’t really help the fire. In less than 24 hours, 60-80mph winds helped the fire burn through nearly 17 square miles, quickly spreading into nearby cities and forcing 90,000 families to evacuate. More than 700 firefighters were dispatched to help suppression efforts, and two were injured as of today. My high school campus was left with burn marks as the fire jumped a major freeway sparking another fire that they named the Blue Ridge Fire. Where I live now, more than 20 miles away from the fire’s origin, had orange skies with air that tasted exactly like when you stand too close to a bonfire.


Alex Hall, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) suggested that the way things are looking, climate change will drive down the humidity of the Santa Ana winds, making it even more dry. The Santa Ana winds already cause explosive fires, and dryer winds would increase their ability to spread farther and faster. Aside from the Santa Ana wind fires, California has a ton of wildfires in the summer that are driven more by the extreme heat we have. And as I mentioned before, our extreme heat is breaking its own records.


So, it’s 2020 and from Jan. 1 to Oct. 25, California has already had 7,221 wildfires that have burned through 1,465,048 acres. We have 2 more months to go and we’re already dangerously close to 2019’s statistics in terms of the number of fires. As for acres burned, we’ve passed 2019’s mark a long time ago.


Climate change was first brought into the conversation in the late 1800’s and has been a major talking point ever since. From the 19th century until now, why haven’t we even come to wholly accept that it’s actually happening? Maybe living in California has made me biased, seeing the greenery grow more and more brown over the years, feeling the air dry up and seeing our drought situation progressively worsen as the wildfires scorch our state. To me, California alone is more than enough reason to believe in climate change and want to do something about it. If one state in America is going through so much because of the weather, I can’t imagine the global consequences. We see the ice caps melting and coral reefs dying, but there’s definitely so much more going on.


Gen Z is reported to be the largest generation so far. We make up 32 percent of the world’s population and are often described as pioneers, powerful, progressive, and impactful. So, I’d say it’s about time for us to live up to those labels and make a change.


*All data obtained from the official California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) website.