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Sonoma County Gazette
Wild Fires in the Pacific Northwest.This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Wild Fires in the Pacific Northwest.This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Climate Change — It's in the Air!


Dec 1, 2018
by Tish Levee


I don’t have to tell you about climate change—you can see it in the air!

The smoke from the Camp (Creek Road) Fire in Paradise has kept schools closed, canceled sporting events, covered cars with ash, and meant we  all stayed inside or walked around with N95 masks (or we should've been!), while our Air Quality has often been the worst in the world. I grew up in Southern California in the ‘50s and remember air like this on a daily basis.  The Clean Air Act, which the EPA seeks to weaken or eliminate, changed that.

Fire season is now yearlong and incredibly intense.

What happened? While fires are part of our natural ecology, global warming has made them worse due to 2-3º Fahrenheit warmer temperatures, dryer conditions, and stronger winds. This latest fire is now the deadliest fire in the US in over a century! 

Downed PG&E power lines, amid high winds, may have sparked the deadly Camp (Creek Road) Fire that has destroyed the town of Paradise.

And it’s going to get worse!

I wrote about the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on climate change’s effect on the planet last month. Closer to home,  California’s 4th Climate Assessment released in August, says that by 2100, extreme wildfires will increase by 50% and the area burned statewide will increase by 77%;  average annual maximum temperatures will increase 5.6% to 8.8% (this latter for continuing “business-as-usual”); water supply from the Sierra snowpack could decline by two-thirds; 31% to 67% of our beaches could erode without large-scale interventions; triple the number of coastal highways could flood in a hundred-year storm; hotter temperatures will increase annual electricity costs; and urban heat waves could cause two to three times more heat-related deaths.  This is NOT good news, folks!

We’ve seen this coming for a long time, but we always thought it was much further off. Now we know that we have to act and act NOW!

Despite mixed results, the election outcome is hopeful about climate change.

First off, thanks to everyone who voted.  Highest mid-term turnout in 50 years!

Governors-elect in Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nevada support shifting their states to 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2040; Maine’s new governor plans to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2030; and New Mexico’s governor-elect was a consistently pro-environmental voter when she was in Congress. Many newly elected members of the House support phasing out fossil fuels, and the Democratic Party plans to restore a special committee focused on climate change once it formally takes control of the House.

Portland, Oregon approved a tax to fund clean energy, Florida amended the state constitution to ban offshore drilling, and, here in California, we defeated the effort to repeal the gas tax hike—which has been instrumental in reducing gasoline usage.

But the fossil fuel industry spent $100 million to defeat climate initiatives in Colorado, Washington, and Arizona.

Climate Change in the Courts.

The  US District Court in Montana ruled against the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction proceeding,  saying the government’s information ignored evidence of the impact on climate. While the pipeline has been painted as “jobs vs. environment,” in reality even the temporary jobs created would be a fraction of the 28,000 claimed by the administration, and fewer than 50 permanent jobs would result.

All-electric home construction means far fewer emissions.

We could have 80% fewer carbon emissions over the next 20 years by building all electric homes. With “Business as Usual,” Sonoma County’s emissions would rise over 40% by 2050; Santa Rosa’s would double. The SR City Council has been working with the Friends of the Santa Rosa Climate Action Plan (FoCAP) to draft an “electric-ready” ordinance for new construction, focusing on pre-wiring homes for modern electric appliances instead of natural gas. Homeowners could then decide to switch from natural gas without needing expensive upgrades.  Pre-wiring would add $250 or less to the cost of building.

Learn more — get involved!

On December 3 & 4th, the Climate Reality Project will broadcast   “24 Hours of Reality: Protect Our Planet, Protect Ourselves” in countries all around the globe,  focusing the world's attention on the reality of the climate crisis. The  live webcast is at   Host a watch party—get the tool kit for doing so by emailing


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