As I headed up toward the Goose Fire to help with protection and repair efforts, I found myself thinking about the sharp increase in forest fires in recent years, the climate-related factors that are lengthening and worsening California’s fire seasons, and how much this all costs.
When pundits talk of the allegedly high costs of avoiding climate change, they never seem to mention the costs of not preventing it.
There are the costs associated with fighting fires, repairing infrastructure, sheltering people made homeless, and hours lost to other work because people such as my colleagues and me (not dedicated to work on disasters, but instead have other jobs) are having to monitor climate-impacted disasters like fires and floods.
More importantly, the human cost – in homes lost, lives disrupted, and stress endured by those who have to respond – is never considered. Yet, these are all costs that must be counted.
I will continue to monitor the fires, to wait for my other work to be disrupted so that I can respond, and to count the costs that others refuse to because that has become a part of my job. It has to be someone’s.
MATT ARMSTRONG, FRESNO
We Ignore Climate Change at Our Peril, by Matt Armstrong, The Fresno Bee, September 15, 2016.