Global warming will cause more frequent and intense wildfires. It's among the conclusions that scientists are most confident in drawing from the evidence about the future climate -- less snow in the mountains, less runoff, more prolonged dry spells, more heat waves and more pest infestations that weaken trees. It all adds up.
This season's rash of fires -- 56,877 fires having burned 4.9 million acres -- has ignited people's awareness, even if the specific conditions can't be tied directly to climate change. The fires we're seeing are spawned by the type of conditions we're encouraging via greenhouse gas pollution -- that much, at least, is clear. A second facet of the nation's forests, and their connection to climate change, remains less well explored. At least in Washington.
The energy bills and climate change policies being discussed have so far shortchanged the Forest Service's request for more research into how it can best manage forests so that they absorb as much carbon as possible. By some estimates, they already reduce our pollution by one third -- doing their part, anyway, to keep from burning.
Even as wildfires burn across the West this summer, the nation's forests have become entwined in the larger debate over climate change. They are both a victim of global warming and a potential solution in helping reverse the trend, by sopping up huge amounts of greenhouse gases. Among all the talk of carbon sequestration, biofuels and corporate average fuel economy, forests have been mostly overlooked on Capitol Hill.
Wildfire photos from around the world submitted by The Daily Green community to the Weird Weather Watch photoblog
Tahoe fire, Sierra sunset
Griffith Park Brush Fire
Griffith Park Burning
Athens Wildfire 2
Florida on Fire
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