Wildfires and climate change are locked in a vicious circle: Fires worsen climate change, and climate change worsens fires. Last week, wildfire smoke prompted another round of unhealthy air quality in California. Fires in Oregon and Northern California sent smoke into Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. And it’s a global nightmare: This summer, world temperatures hit an all-time high, the worst U.S. wildfire in more than a century devastated Maui, a deadly fire in Greece was declared Europe’s largest ever, and swaths of the Midwest and Northeast have been blanketed by smoke from Canada’s forest fires.
Researchers are increasingly calling attention to how forest fires might be eroding the state’s climate goals, with UCLA scientists describing the state’s efforts as “up in smoke.”
Dr. Michael Jerrett, professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said nearly two decades worth of emission reductions from power plants were threatened by the 2020 fires, which included some of California’s largest and most destructive fires. “Essentially, the positive impact of all that hard work over almost two decades is at risk of being swept aside by the smoke produced in a single year of record-breaking wildfires,” Jerrett said in a statement.