NW Heat Wave, Fires Could Be 'Preview' Of Hotter Future

Jul 7, 2021

Credit Glen/Adobe Stock

An unprecedented heat wave and fears of another severe wildfire season have put the warming climate at center stage in the Northwest.

Heat has broken records across the region and claimed hundreds of lives on the West Coast, and temperatures have remained high in Idaho since last week. Climate campaign coordinator for the Idaho Conservation League, Alycia Bean, said the recent conditions highlight the health aspects of the changing climate. "How are these people going to adapt to this long-term, you know, more than one or two days, sustained heat, given the resources and the infrastructure that they have?" Bean asked. "We are not prepared to handle something like that." Bean said the nation needs to take two approaches to climate change: It must do what it can to mitigate the effects by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and also learn to adapt to the new, warmer climate. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 60% of Idaho faces severe drought this year, and nearly all the state faces moderate drought. Bean said out the long-term trends of drier fuels, higher air temperatures and lower snowpacks are increasing the length and intensity of wildfire seasons. "All of those different, observed impacts from climate change coupled together enable future wildfires that are going to be larger, more intense," Bean said. She said not all fire is bad, and it can be used, in controlled ways, to help the forest. But nearly all the current fires burning in Idaho were started by people. External relations director for the League, Jonathan Oppenheimer, sees current conditions as a preview of what's to come. "It really emphasizes the need for us as Idahoans and Westerners across this portion of the country to really work to reduce climate impact," Oppenheimer said. "Do what we can to transition to renewables, to use public transportation, and to take the personal steps that we can all take to reduce some of our climate impact."