Statement: The historic wildfires of 2020 are a clear sign of climate change

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Millions of acres burn in states across the American West

Environment America

WASHINGTON — The American West is on fire across both the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones. Wildfires have burned 2.5 million acres in California, 700,000 acres in Oregon, 580,000 acres in Washington, 288,000 acres in Colorado, and 111,000 acres in Montana. Right now, four of the 10 largest wildfires in California history are burning simultaneously, including the largest in the state’s history

The most recent National Climate Assessment published in 2018 found that the amount of land burned by wildfires increased four-fold in the 30 years leading up to 2016. The report goes on to say that wildfire seasons are lasting longer across the West because of warming temperatures and earlier snow melt. Drier air and vegetation are fueling increasingly ferocious fires that threaten lives with both flames and hazardous air pollution, amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrea McGimsey, senior director for Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions campaign, issued the following statement:  

“The nation is riveted by scenes of the catastrophic wildfires across the West. We are watching in horror as our fellow Americans lose their homes, their businesses, their communities, and their lives, including the heartbreaking death of a one-year-old child in Washington.

“For decades, scientists have warned that we can expect more extensive and severe wildfires as the planet warms. We can no longer ignore the clear stamp of climate change as we watch the wildfires of 2020 destroy our magnificent western states. 

Our elected leaders in Washington must use this tragic moment as motivation to finally get to work on passing bold, comprehensive climate legislation and move us quickly into a future powered by clean energy rather than fossil fuels. Congress must act on climate — now.”