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Is Global Warming A Significant Contributor to Washington State Wildfires, Now or in the Future?

Is Global Warming A Significant Contributor to Washington State Wildfires, Now or in the Future?

During the past several summers there have been major wildfires in Washington State producing a lot of smoke.  And many people have been asking an important question:
To what degree is anthropogenic global warming contributing to Washington State wildfires?

 
If 90% of the blame for Northwest wildfires is due to anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming and 10% is due to fire suppression, poor forest management, or people starting more fires, then the logical response is to put most of  our efforts into reducing atmospheric CO2.   A climate-dominated problem.

If 90% of the blame is due to past fire suppression, forest mismanagement, invasive species, and human encroachment, then we should put most of our efforts into fixing the forests and other non-climate measures. A surface-management problem.

And yes, the percentages could be somewhere in between.

Supporters of the carbon fee initiative (1631) are suggesting that the recent wildfires are mainly the result of anthropogenic climate change and using the fires to push their carbon fee plan.

And Governor Inslee has stated explicitly that the fires have been made much worse by climate change.

In contrast, others, including a number of folks in the forestry community, have suggested that poor forest practices are the main cause of most of the wildfires over the eastern side of the state.

It is important to note that relative role of global warming in influencing the threat of wildfires may change in time.  For example, global warming could be relatively unimportant today for wildfires, but of great importance later in the century when temperatures will be much warmer.

The Need for Better Information

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