A wildfire spanning more than 1 million acres across seven counties in California caused the state to use a the new classification ‘gigafire’. The fire was an amalgamation of several fires that burned and grew until becoming one giant fire; one of many fires that raged across California in 2020. More than 4.3 million acres of California have been burned in 2020, double that of the previous year, resulting in 33 deaths and roughly 10,000 buildings destroyed.
With record-setting fires in the Amazon and Australia in 2019, and California’s new gigafire classification in 2020, it appears that ‘record-breaking’ fires is beginning to mean very little. A new, more extreme, ‘hothouse earth’ climate is driving instability in our atmosphere and biosphere and making devastating fires the norm. The human, animal, and economic consequences of these blazes cannot be overstated.
Will these apocalyptic, unmanageable and uncharacteristically large fires light the fire under humanities efforts to curb climate change and deforestation with the requisite intensity and pace? If not, what can we do to achieve the change in mindset needed to meet these global challenges with the requisite urgency?