Seventeen of California’s 20 worst recorded fires have struck since the start of this century — five of those in the past 18 months. The most recent, which destroyed the poignantly named town of Paradise in Northern California, has taken at least 76 lives so far. More than 1,000 people in the area are still missing.
The signs are that the breathtaking scale and spread of the so-called Camp Fire is a harbinger of worse to come. Similar rises in frequency and severity are true of coastal flooding in Florida, the hurricane season in America’s flood plains and storm surges across its east coast. The same can be said of droughts in Europe and Australia and killer heatwaves in the Middle East. The question is what to do about it.
The most urgent step is to acknowledge the growing impact of global warming. The recent report by the International Panel on Climate Change says that the world must cut carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 to prevent global warming from reaching 1.5C over the coming decades. In effect, we must cut emissions by half within a decade. Even assuming such a drastic action, temperatures would still rise by significantly more than the increase we have already witnessed. The scope for so-called mitigation remains huge.
It does not help when Donald Trump, the US president, who leads the world’s second-largest emitter after China, repeatedly denies that man-made climate change has anything to do with such disasters. [Continue reading…]