What is causing the California Wildfires and What Can We Do About It?
“Why are there so many wildfires in California now and how can we fix them?”
I love living in Northern California. Whether it be the myriad of different natural wonders I can visit, the passionate people who want to change the world, or the wealth of scientific opportunity that is available. But things are definitely changing and it’s not just the housing prices. It seems like wildfires are becoming more frequent and even more deadly. And the statistics say that this isn’t just my intuition. 13 of the 20 greatest fires in recorded Californian history have taken place since the turn of the millennium, and the average cost to fight them has only grown.
Why is this happening? There are many reasons. Increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall have left much of the state arid and prone to combustible accidents. Aging transmission infrastructure has resulted in power lines becoming more prone to failure, often times resulting in a fire occurring. Suburban sprawl has also led to overdevelopment in fire-prone areas.
So what can we do about this? Well, we can adapt our infrastructure and society to climate change to increase our resilience to climate change. This can be accomplished by repairing grid lines, restricting development in fire-prone areas, and reducing reliance on the grid through distributed energy resources such as building integrated solar. If California can take action to solve these problems, then it can provide an example for other areas facing similar catastrophes such as Portugal and India to follow. Only through these actions can we ensure the safety of our society.
The fact that I couldn’t see the Santa Cruz mountains from San Jose or breathe the fresh marina air in Berkeley in the way I used to take for granted troubles me greatly. I want to ensure that the next generation will have the same privileges I had during my early years in the Bay.