Wild­fire emis­sions equal a year of power pol­lu­tion

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - News - BY SUDHIN THANAWALA

Wild­fires in Cal­i­for­nia in 2018 re­leased the rough equiv­a­lent of about 68 mil­lion tons of heat-trap­ping car­bon diox­ide – about the same amount of car­bon emis­sions as are pro­duced in a year to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to the state, U.S. In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke said Fri­day.

The car­bon diox­ide fig­ure – based on data an­a­lyzed by the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey – is more than 15 per­cent of all emis­sions pro­duced by Cal­i­for­nia in a year, ac­cord­ing to Zinke.

“We know that wild­fires can be deadly and cost bil­lions of dol­lars, but this anal­y­sis from the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey also shows just how bad cat­a­strophic fires are for the en­vi­ron­ment and for the pub­lic’s health,” Zinke said in a state­ment.

This year in­cluded Cal­i­for­nia’s dead­li­est and most de­struc­tive wild­fire – a blaze in Novem­ber that took out nearly 14,000 homes in a ru­ral North­ern Cal­i­for­nia county and killed at least 88 peo­ple. Another fire that started the same day in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia killed three peo­ple and de­stroyed 1,500 struc­tures, in­clud­ing the homes of celebrities in tony Mal­ibu.

Those two fires pro­duced emis­sions equiv­a­lent to roughly 5.5 mil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide, Zinke said.

The 2018 emis­sions fig­ure for Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires is “strik­ingly high, sig­nif­i­cant in the con­text of over­all statewide emis­sions, and likely a record value for sin­gle-year di­rect car­bon emis­sions from wild­fires in Cal­i­for­nia his­tory,” said Daniel Swain, a cli­mate sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Los An­ge­les.

“It is an alarm­ing num­ber, but we live in a fire­prone state,” said Dick Cameron, di­rec­tor of sci­ence for land pro­grams at the Cal­i­for­nia chap­ter of the Na­ture Con­ser­vancy.

Zinke used the car­bon fig­ure he re­leased Fri­day to con­tinue to push for the thin­ning of forests. Cameron said that would help but that cli­mate and home con­struc­tion were also sig­nif­i­cant fac­tors in the de­struc­tive­ness of the fires.

Cameron cau­tioned that wild­fire emis­sions were still a rel­a­tively small com­po­nent of cli­mat­e­chang­ing green­house gases. In Cal­i­for­nia, cars and other trans­porta­tion ac­count for more than 40 per­cent of to­tal emis­sions.

ERIC RISBERG AP file

The Palace of Fine Arts and the San Fran­cisco city sky­line are nearly ob­scured by haze from wild­fires Nov. 19. Wild­fires in Cal­i­for­nia in 2018 re­leased the rough equiv­a­lent of about 68 mil­lion tons of heat-trap­ping car­bon diox­ide.

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