- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
UC Cooperative Extension specialist Max Moritz has noticed that reporters are displaying a keen interest in the role played by global warming in what has so far been an unusually fierce 2012 fire season.
"For me, that marks a significant shift," wrote Moritz in a op-ed published in Nature yesterday. "This fresh curiosity about the link between fire and climate change is an important opportunity, of sorts."
Moritz, a wildfire expert in the UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, is the author of a journal article published this summer in Ecosphere that linked climate change to global fire activity. The article is cited on a press release from U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Democrats that calls for a hearing about reducing wildfire risk.
In the Moritz op-ed, he notes that a second common question from the press about the 2012 fire season is: “If these fires are related to climate change, what can we do about it?”
The inquiry, he said, reveals a growing anxiety over how humanity can adapt to the fire-related impacts of climate change, rather than how to mitigate climate change itself.
"To co-exist with fire will require extending our approach to living with environmental risks," Moritz wrote. "Mapping other natural hazards, such as flood and earthquake zones, has taught us to avoid building on the most dangerous parts of the landscape or to engineer solutions into the built environment when we do. Encouraging the 'right kind of fire' — with frequencies, sizes and intensities appropriate to the ecosystem in question — will be necessary, where possible, so that 'record-breaking' fires are less likely to occur during 'record-breaking' heat or drought."