A single, devastating California fire season wiped out years of efforts to cut emissions from power plants, and has made the future of the struggling U.S. economy – and its ability to feed its economy and fuel its growth – uncertain for years.
The fire season began in July 2018 – a year earlier than ever before in California’s history – and ended in late 2019. The year’s most destructive single-day weather event occurred on Oct. 28, when more than 60 fires swept across the state, killing at least eight people and destroying up to 1,000 square miles of territory.
The summer of 2018 brought record-breaking heat in a state that is often dry and windy. It was hotter, on average, by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) across the three months from June to September, according to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
California is the second leading producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, after only the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The state and the state’s residents have been trying desperately to control their power plants because they threaten to blow up a global climate that is already warming faster than scientists believed it could.
And now that the fire season is nearly over, the state and its residents are back to square one, as they have been for years – or for most of the United States – and have not been able to avoid making the same mistakes again.
The failure to cut greenhouse gases from power plants was already a missed opportunity because the state’s top officials made the mistake in the past with their efforts to fight the fires. The failures to implement a climate policy that would cut emissions from the electric power sector have meant that California burned up a few million dollars in carbon savings, but have also failed to achieve its goal, scientists say.
The fires are the result of extreme weather events like wildfires. Experts have long known that extreme heat and drought are making California and other agricultural states vulnerable to wildfires. They have now gone well beyond that, and are now destroying the nation’s economy, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The loss of agricultural ground has meant that the