The West is literally on fire, the latest demonstration that climate change is both very real, and a very real danger.
For the past month, across much of California and the entire West Coast, the sky has been ashy and orange. It has been difficult—not to mention potentially detrimental to your long-term health—to breathe.
Temperatures in Los Angeles have occasionally risen to levels we might associate with Death Valley, and millions are living with the knowledge that a strong wind could mean they have to flee for their lives with whatever they can carry.
Forest fires are part of living in California, never welcome, but usually manageable. But in recent years, we are seeing record-breaking fire seasons on a regular basis. In the previous five years, the average acreage destroyed by fire in California by the end of August was just over 300,000 acres. As of mid-September this year, almost 2.5 million acres had burned, with much of the fire season still to go.
Reasonable people can debate the best policies and paths forward to combat climate change—but the existence of climate change and humankind’s effect on it is no longer up for debate.
Climate change is not some hypothetical future threat. It is here, it is right now. It is evidenced by the fires and hurricanes and deadly storms and record heatwaves of today. We need to take bold action now, to save our planet for future generations and to lessen the frequency and severity of natural disasters.
This cause and call to action should not divert our focus from other crises, as they are ultimately inextricably linked. Climate change is a public health issue. Climate change is a racial justice issue. Climate change is a national security issue. Climate change is an economic issue. And, as those closely monitoring fire updates with emergency bags packed by the door know all too well, climate change is an issue of immediate safety.
That’s why any plan to address climate change must take a comprehensive—akin to an Apollo-style project—approach towards building a just, sustainable, safe economy for all, one that will create millions of new jobs and new opportunities.
It starts with a Green New Deal. It starts with an agenda combatting environmental injustice, protecting workers affected by economic shocks, and investing in public infrastructure as we look to deal with this existential threat and allow our world once again to thrive.
Because when it comes to climate change, we cannot and will not settle for incremental change. Our country and our state is on fire—there’s no time to wait.
This piece was originally published at the Los Feliz Ledger.