California megafires: Global warming has a good back

California megafires: Global warming has a good back

Analyze. Commendable as they are, the climate change headlines—the “megaheadlines,” one might say—that are eroded as soon as a few acres catch fire have the downside of obscuring an important element of the fires debate: the economic one dimension . In the short term, preventing and fighting fires is all about big bucks. There would be a way to limit the impact of the fires on the conditions for paying the price.

In the longer term, it is clear that rising temperatures are responsible for the intensification of fires and the emergence of megafires, those blazes that ravage more than 10,000 hectares and are beyond the control of fire departments. You don’t have to be a climatologist to understand that the drier the wood, the easier it is to catch fire.

In the US, too, most of the media has unequivocally pushed climate change to the forefront of responsibility for the last fire in California, the “Oak Fire”, which broke out on July 22 near Yosemite Park. A relatively modest focus (8,000 acres) compared to what has become the norm in the Golden State, but which, after coinciding with an extraordinary heatwave on the East Coast — where major TV stations are located — has been seen as a manifestation of a country in Flames.

95% human causes

Having established the role of climate, it may be worth remembering that fires also have very proximate causes that stem from economic forces. In California for example. According to Cal Fire, the California Fire Department, 95% of fires are man-made. The electronics company PG&E alone has been found guilty of several fires since 2015: the deadliest was the “Camp Fire” of 2018, which reduced the city of Paradise to rubble and the deaths of 85 people to the gigantic “Dixie Fire” of 2021, which devastated 405,000 hectares. Each time, sparks from poorly maintained wires caused the fire to break out (in the case of the “Dixie Fire,” a dead tree fell on a pylon; the inquest found it should have been cleared thirteen years ago).

The judiciary sentenced PG&E to eviction several times. The company is reluctant to salvage its profit margin. Why aren’t the lines buried like in Europe? It would have cost the capitalists of the electrification age too much…

Also read (in 2019): Article reserved for our subscribers In California the electrician PG&E or the “law of jungle capitalism”

PG&E started burying a few lines. For the last two years, the company has also adopted an unstoppable strategy that costs nothing: it cuts off electricity to subscribers when the wind is too strong. However, that didn’t stop it from charging consumers a “climate change” surcharge in 2021 to fund the compensation it had to pay to victims of the fires it caused. The climate is good…

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