The fire next time: Why did Ft. McMurray burn? We are talking about a tar sands boom town all the way up there toward the Arctic Circle. The fire came in May when the boreal forest that surrounds this northern outpost should still be frozen. And this is a wet year in the west. El Nino is driving moisture up from the tropics. But here are the facts: climate change is moving faster in northern latitudes than in more temperate zones like Oregon. Snow pack in the Northern Hemisphere is at a record low level this spring. The boreal forest is dry and additional rainfall is not sufficient to mitigate the increased flammability of the fuel. (“When temperature increases we find that for every degree of warming, precipitation has to increase by more than 15 % … to compensate for the drying caused by warmer temperatures.” Climate Change journal, January 2016) Bottom line: a city of 90 thousand inhabitants, about the size of Medford or Bend is evacuated and ravaged by fire. What does this mean for us? The effects of climate change visible now in northern forests are marching south. Alberta today is Oregon tomorrow. It’s time to get serious about capping greenhouse gas emissions in this state and in every jurisdiction on the planet. Even if we finally take energy conversion seriously, we still have horrendous fire seasons in our future, but maybe we still have a chance to bend the climate change curve before it’s too late. For more gory details, read this.
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