The ominous, headache-red of the sky over California is like one thing from a post-apocalyptic movie. Wildfires have burned greater than 4 million acres within the area this 12 months, killing at the very least 35 folks with dozens extra lacking.

Thousands have needed to flee, leaving homes and possessions to the flames. The wreckage of their houses now lies underneath drifts of gray ash, whereas they breathe in poisonous smoke. 

Wildfires are usually not surprising on this a part of the world ­– however these are usually not even near the size of a routine burn. The blazes embrace six of the ten largest wildfires in California’s historical past, official figures present. Extreme phenomena comparable to hearth tornados are occurring, not in isolation, however repeatedly.


These fires are usually not burning in distant forests however threatening cities. Entire cities have been razed to the bottom, and the pall of smoke is inflicting a severe well being threat throughout the western US. 

The situations for this have been constructing because the local weather disaster progresses: over half of California, and greater than 95 p.c of Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico are presently in drought.

In the aptly named Death Valley in California, what could have been the world’s highest ever temperature of 54.4°C was recorded this 12 months. The indicators have been all pointing the identical approach. 

The loss and grief felt within the western US proper now could be identified to many internationally because the local weather disaster builds. Indeed, many poorer international locations which are struggling comparable signs of worldwide heating are dealing with a a lot increased human toll, as their governments wrestle to manage.

Just this month, Sudan was pressured to declare a state of emergency, because the Nile River reached its highest ranges in over 100 years, washing away complete villages, ruining farms and uprooting lives. Almost 100 folks have died, and over half 1,000,000 have been displaced and are actually dealing with poverty, violence, and the lack of their houses.


In May, Bangladesh’s most intense cyclone in 20 years — Cyclone Amphan ­– devastated villages, destroying the houses of half 1,000,000 folks.

By July, a third of the nation was underwater after flooding brought on by the heaviest rains in ten years, affecting 1.5 million folks. Now those self same folks, beginning once more having misplaced houses, financial savings and family members, are among the most in danger of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yet these are only a handful of the latest examples, there are literally thousands of heart-rending tales from all over the world and will be hundreds extra because the local weather disaster deepens. The query is, when will we begin listening?

We can’t keep away from all the implications of our dependancy to fossil fuels, a lot continues to be to return, however there are nice strides we might make, numerous lives that might be saved, if we act now. 

We want to maneuver rapidly. All nations, however wealthy international locations particularly – people who have benefitted from carbon-intensive improvement – have to step up. The full ambition of the Paris Agreement have to be realised to attain a wholesale transformation to a zero-carbon economic system.


The drastic discount in the price of renewable vitality means the case for ending the usage of fossil fuels – environmental, financial, humanitarian – is unequivocal.

A world shift to renewable vitality would see financial, social and environmental advantages for all international locations.

The blood-red skies of California seem like one thing from a post-apocalyptic movie. But our world continues to be pre-apocalyptic. We can preserve it that approach: If we act now. 

This Author 

Steve Trent is government director of the Environmental Justice Foundation. 

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