The Intersection

My latest Science Progress column just went up. It’s about what we can and can’t say about global warming and the California wildfires–and the strong parallels between the climate-wildfire debate and the climate-hurricane debate. A quotation:

…an important generalization about climate change and disasters: Even as we must be cautious not to attribute any single disaster to climate change, and even as we must acknowledge the societal factors that make us more vulnerable, we still have every right to fear the double whammy of a societal trend superimposed atop a climatic trend. In both the hurricane and the wildfire cases, there are reasons for thinking that’s precisely what’s happening.

You can read the entire column here.


  1. #1 bob koepp
    October 31, 2007

    Chris –
    Framing your point in terms of a “right” to fear a double whammy is pretty weak. Is there also a “right” not to be afraid? Now, if you were to claim, instead, that there are strong reasons for fear, reasons that can withstand critical reflection, then you’d be making a much more interesting, and controversial claim.

  2. #2 Lance
    October 31, 2007

    Chris, in your column, you conclude by saying,

    “Following the Southern California wildfires, then, we discover yet another science scandal. Global warming is probably changing wildfire risks, and western states (and their citizens) have a need to know more precisely how that will affect them. But they don’t-because of the Bush administration’s continual suppression and misuse of science, and because of the tragic politicization of the climate issue.”

    You have strained credibility past the breaking point in your frantic zeal to blame the Bush administration for anything you think can be hung on them. In the complete absence of anything that looks even remotely like conclusive scientific evidence to support a link between global warming and California wild fires you have actually blamed Bush for the lack of evidence that might support your baseless contention.

    Let me see if I can follow your twisted logic. You claim Bush has “suppressed” climate science. I beg your pardon? With billions of dollars of federal grant money spent on every conceivable aspect of global warming how exactly has Bush suppressed scientific research that is needed to establish your imagined link between AGW and wildfires and save the poor residents of western states from building homes in areas, that it is common knowledge, have repeatedly burned over thousands of years?

    Then in a jaw dropping move of self blindness you have the nerve to lament the “tragic politicization of the climate issue”. This from a guy who makes a living off of politicizing the climate issue.


  3. #3 Lindsay
    October 31, 2007

    I liked your article. I think it’s important when dealing with issues surrounding things like climate change and disaster to repeat the old phrase “correlation is NOT causation,” one that should be mantra by now. Wildfires may be increasing, but so is the sprawl that destroys the natural burn-recovery cycle of the Southern Californian chaparral ecosystem.

    Don’t discount the trends, but don’t take them hookline&sinker either. By keeping our minds open to new information, we’ll eventually figure it out.

  4. #4 Erik
    November 1, 2007

    It’s important to note that, as Lance says, the research is out there and that the science does predict that global warming will create a drier climate in the Southwest, exacerbating wildfire potential. But this is in spite of the Bush administration to officially recognize the situation.

New comments have been disabled.