San Diego Fires Latest Example of Risks Posed by Global Warming

San Diego Fires Latest Example of Risks Posed by Global Warming

For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Nick Berning, 202-222-0748

FoE President criticizes President Bush’s global warming record in advance of Bush’s trip to region tomorrow

Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder said today that the numerous wildfires in and around San Diego illustrate the threat caused by global warming and that President Bush should be forced to confront his dismal record on global warming when he visits the affected region tomorrow.

“The immediate health and safety of the people and property in the San Diego region are — rightly — everyone’s top priority as this crisis unfolds,” Blackwelder said. “But if we’re going to avoid tragedies like this in the future, we must also take a long-term view. On this point, the science is clear: global warming has already led to increased wildfire activity in the U.S., and if we don’t dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near future, the problem is going to get much worse. Unfortunately, too few people are making this connection.”

Blackwelder said that while it is impossible to say that any one fire is caused by global warming, it is clear that global warming makes wildfires — and other natural disasters, including droughts, hurricanes and heat waves — more likely. He noted that Southern California has recently been subjected to a sustained drought, which is one of the predicted effects of global warming and is contributing to the fires. Blackwelder also pointed to the strong scientific evidence demonstrating a link between the warming climate and wildfires in particular (links to examples of research on this subject are available below).

Blackwelder also said President Bush should be ashamed of his poor record on global warming and should have to answer for it tomorrow when he tours the region.

“President Bush plans to come flying into San Diego tomorrow acting the part of the hero. But on this issue, he’s not the hero — he’s the villain,” Blackwelder said. “It’s two years after Hurricane Katrina but the only progress he’s made is actually acknowledging that global warming exists. On the other hand, states like California have taken a leadership role, enacting legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But then what happens? Bush’s EPA fails to act on the request for a waiver that would allow California’s legislation to take effect. Californians are trying to do something positive on this issue but President Bush is standing in the way. He should be ashamed.”

Blackwelder said Friends of the Earth would respond by mobilizing its members and activists across the country to contact President Bush and urge him to ensure that his administration grants California a waiver that would allow it to implement its “Pavley legislation” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. FoE members will also ask Bush to get more serious about fighting global warming in general.

Links to two key scientific studies linking U.S. wildfires and climate change follow: Science found that “the broad-scale increase in wildfire frequency across the western United States has been driven primarily by sensitivity of fire regimes to recent changes in climate” and that “the projected regional warming and consequent increase in wildfire activity in the western United States is likely to magnify the threats to human communities and ecosystems.”
Conservation Biology found that “increased temperature in the future will likely extend fire seasons throughout the western United States, with more fires occurring earlier and later than is currently typical, and will increase the total area burned in some regions.”

A 2006 study published in the journal

A 2004 study in the journal

Also, a post at Climate Progress today has more information about global warming and wildfires and is available at