Fighting wildfires shouldn’t be a partisan issue

Wildfires across the U.S.

Last week an article ran in Popular Science magazine outlining exactly how much of the country has burned or is burning this fire season. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot and it is shaping up to be one of the worst fire seasons on record.

In the U.S. many states are already close to using up their entire fire budget for the year, despite continuing drought conditions and extended fire seasons. In Europe, a record breaking heat wave which scientists conclude is a result of climate change has caused an area almost the size of Rhode Island to burn.

Why Regional Climate Centers (RCCs) need your help

Six Regional Climate Centers provide the data that we use to help control and prevent wildfires.  Originally created in the 1980s with bipartisan support, the RCCs collect and analyze data that decision makers use for drought, fires, floods, and impacts on transportation, human health, water supplies, energy and disaster management planning. The RCCs also provide the US Drought Monitoring Author, which adds a weekly drought map the government uses to allocate drought relief, an early drought warning system, and more basic information, such as daily temperature highs and lows.

Despite urgent conditions, the Regional Climate Centers are on the chopping block. The President’s proposed budget would slash the Centers’ budgets by 82%, from $3.65 million to just $650,000.

Why? The President deems anything related to climate change to be unnecessary, including the term “climate change”, which has been eliminated from the official lexicon of several government agencies under the Trump administration. This short-sided and highly politicized stance ignores the conditions on the ground — and the needs of our communities in planning, mitigating and managing real fires, droughts and floods that impact our lives and our health.

Can the Utah wildfires be attributed to climate change?

A study from the Utah Department of Health, Climate Change and Public Health in Utah, thinks so. The report specifically lists increased fire danger as one of the biggest results of climate change in Utah. But whether people or politicians agree with this attribution is missing the point. The world is experiencing more and bigger fires unilaterally due to rising global temperatures. More and bigger fires produces bad air quality, which in turn harms public health with increased asthma, respiratory illness and disease, cardiovascular disease and more. In a state that already sees some of the worst air in the world in the winter months, this is not welcome news for Utahns.

What do RCC budget cuts mean for Utah?

  • Reduced funding to mitigate the impacts of increased fire risk and drought conditions
  • Reduced ability to address air quality issues that impact not only quality of life, but longevity and vitality in the state
  • Inadequate preparation to get ahead of these increased problems and risks for prevention purposes

Our senators can and should work towards funding Regional Climate Centers on behalf of our state and states across the nation.

CALL TO ACTION

  • Call your senators and demand common sense funding to address wildfires, droughts and floods and the planning, mitigation and management our nation requires to protect the health and safety of the American people. Surveys show that most Utahns believe that global warming is happening, regardless of who is causing it. Health and safety are not partisan issues to be used as political tools. Fund Regional Climate Centers in full.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (202) 224-5251 (DC) // (801) 524-4380 (SLC) // (801) 375-7881 (Provo) // (435) 634-1795 (St. George) // (801) 625-5672 (Ogden) // (435) 586-8435 (Cedar City)
Sen. Mike Lee 202-224-5444 (DC) // 801-524-5933 (SLC) // 435-628-5514 (St. George) // 801-392-9633 (Ogden)

 

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