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Global warming is affecting fire season

Common GroundBill KightGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Global warming is an irrevocable fact, according to a host of scientific experts.Whether you agree or not matters little to Mother Nature. She will continue to do as she pleases, causing wildfires in the West come next summer’s fire season.Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell testified a few days ago before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.Chief Kimbell boldly stated that global warming is a factor contributing to wildfire intensity and frequency.”I think we can demonstrate higher severity, larger fires and certainly over the last seven-eight years, more frequent fires and a longer fire season.”But she cautiously commented that, “we need more information before we can conclusively determine the relationship” between global warming and wildfires.

The reason I mention that Chief Kimbell’s testimony was bold relates to a statement made by Committee Chairman Edward J. Markey. He said, “Recently, Centers for Disease Control Director Julie Gerberding testified before the Senate on the impacts of climate change on public health.””In her draft testimony she stated that because of climate change, quote, ‘Forest fires are expected to increase in frequency, severity, distribution and duration.’ The Bush administration removed that statement from her final testimony.”Suppressing the truth is not going to make global warming and climate change go away. We need strong leaders like Chief Kimbell to help us grapple with these complex issues.When asked about the effects of global warming on forest health, the Forest Service Chief said further study is needed on the beetle epidemic. Beetle-killed trees become more fuel for forest fires.Chief Kimbell also attributed the fact that pine beetles are in greater numbers and more areas due to the effects of global climate change.

A friend of mine soon to retire from a stellar career in the Forest Service, told me, “Climate change will make the beetle epidemic look like a Sunday school picnic.”Predicted climate change includes such things as increased drought, snowmelt runoff occurring sooner and faster, more precipitation from rain with less from snow and higher temperatures.All these factors will increase fire danger in our forests.Chief Kimbell is not alone in wanting to do something about global warming. Gov. Ritter on Nov. 5 released his “Colorado Climate Action Plan, A Strategy to Address Global Warming.”The plan recognizes all of the factors mentioned above, including the prediction of longer and more intense wildfire seasons.



Proof of a longer fire season this year lies in the fact that as I write these words, a wildfire is being mopped up near Georgetown. A rare occurrence in Colorado in November.But do not despair. Ritter’s report lists a few things you and I can do about global warming.Some of the actions we can take have to do with making our homes more energy efficient, how we drive, using green power and the usual mantra of “reduce, re-use and recycle.”Making our planet a better place to live is our decision, regardless of global warming.With almost 30 years experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories and concerns with readers every other week.


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