Climate Change Gets Personal - My Sister's House is Lost in Black Forest Fire

For 20 years I have worked on the issue of climate change--mostly from the angle of energy efficiency.  I understand the severity of the crisis and the need for fast and significant action.  But it's been a bit abstract from a personal standpoint.  I was not one of the 20 million Pakistanis dislocated by the flooding there in 2010.  I don't live in parts of New Jersey or New York that were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

But now it's different. 
Last year the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs destroyed 346 homes.  The most destructive day of that fire occurred when Colorado Springs experienced its first 100-degree temperature in recorded history.  And there had been a 3-year drought at that point.  My brother is a firefighter in Colorado Springs, and he worked on the fire.

Then last week, the Black Forest area just northeast of Colorado Springs caught fire.  Again it was brutally hot (98 degrees) and the 3-year drought had lengthened to 4 years.  The timber was so dry you probably could have started the fire just by rubbing two trees together.  As of the drafting of this post, 509 homes had been destroyed, and the fire had burned more than 22 square miles of forest.

One of those 509 homes was my sister's.  Her husband built the home with his own hands and sweat about 20 years ago, and my niece and nephew--now college aged--grew up there.  Two decades of fantastic memories for them, my siblings and me, the nieces and nephews, parents and others were made there.

Let's be clear: climate change did not "cause" the Black Forest Fire.  Climate Change rarely if ever "causes" any particular weather event (and fires are significantly influenced by weather, obviously).  Rather, climate change redials the underlying conditions on which weather events occur.  Pick your metaphor:
  • Climate Change puts weather on steroids
  • Climate Change is like loading the weather dice, making 12's more common and 13's possible
  • The climate system is an angry beast, and we're poking it with sticks
  • Climate Change is like Russian Roulette, and we keep adding bullets
So in the case of the Black Forest Fire and my sister's house, the dice were rolled. . .and they lost.  If those dice had been rolled 20 years ago, maybe not.  We just don't know.  We do know, though, that the likelihood of a fire in the Black Forest is greater and that higher temperatures and longer droughts make a fire there more destructive and more difficult to extinguish.

So now it's personal, and I'm mad.  The delaying, delaying, delaying and denying that has been funded by the polluters has got to end.

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