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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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The cost of wildfires

A recent article in the Financial Times stimulated the following letter, published on 26th February 2018:

Wildfire and other climate costs are rising — fast

If anything, your recent coverage of California’s wildfires (“ The stark message from California raging fires”, editorial, and “ Insurers grapple with increasing wildfire risk”, report, November 19) understate the growing costs and the role of climate change. Fighting wildfires now burns through more than half the US Forest Service budget, up from just 15 per cent in 1990. The main reason is that the fires now consume twice the acreage they did in 1984, according to a study by the University of Idaho and Columbia University, which also found the main cause was higher temperatures and drier conditions due to climate change. These trends are increasing as the frequency of large fires on public lands has grown 500 per cent in the last 40 years and average forest temperatures have risen by 2.5 degrees. California is just one of many states facing higher land management and emergency response costs due to climate change. The human and economic costs of wildfires, hurricanes and other extreme events made more severe by climate change are rising faster than even President Donald Trump’s tweets can deny them. Congress spent $130bn, or one-quarter of the US non-defence discretionary budget, in emergency appropriations for 2017 events alone. Isn’t it about time American citizens and business leaders demanded that Washington address the underlying problem of climate change, to save both lives and money?

Paul Bledsoe

Strategic Advisor,

Progressive Policy Institute, Washington, DC, US

wildfire