Since the beginning of September, Washington State has been swept with wildfire smoke not only from its own fires but also from those raging in California and Oregon. With 620,000 acres burned, 400 buildings eradicated and 200 miles of power lines damaged according to a KOMO report on Sep. 15, this wild fire season has been the worst that the state has ever seen.
The Environmental Defense Fund states that the average wildfire season has become over three months longer than in past decades and the number of large fires on the West Coast has at least tripled in the last decade. These fires are progressively getting worse due to climate change, an ongoing issue caused, or exacerbated, by the following situations.
One of the more publicized fires that occurred this year was in California and was caused by a gender reveal party. The smoke generating device created sparks and in turn generated a giant fire that burned 22,588 acres since it was ignited on Sep. 5, as of Sep. 21 the fire is 59 percent contained. The fire affected more than just California though, smoke not only filled the air but also blew into neighboring states as well which led to the creation of hazardous air quality in numerous locations.
Due to the rising temperatures over the decades, the moisture from the soil has begun to evaporate. Additionally, the snow caps from the mountains are melting at least one month earlier than in the past which, unfortunately, only adds to this problematic situation. Since the snow caps are melting earlier this means there is less snow to irrigate nearby forests to keep the plants from drying out. This, in addition to the higher temperatures and drier soil, makes them more flammable.
The rising temperatures can be attributed to greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions are the result of the burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gases. Some of the main elements that are released when these gases are burned are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. These emissions create a widespread blanket of these gases in the atmosphere that keeps the warm air locked between the ground and the atmosphere.
There are ways that you can help with climate change. From speaking up and electing officials that have it on their agendas to sharing what these people are talking about on social media. You can make or join a club at school that focuses on events surrounding climate change while also working to help educate fellow students by hosting and participating in events. You can also acquire energy-efficient appliances for your home — special refrigerators, washing machines and light bulbs. But most of all, the best thing you can do is educate yourself on the subject and do your part to lessen your impact.
Personally, some of the steps I have taken include utilizing public transportation. This is made possible through the Upass included in tuition. Even though I am just one person, taking the bus makes a big difference when looking at the whole picture. In doing this I am not releasing car emissions into the air by driving myself to campus while living only a few miles away. Even though as individuals we will never have as big an impact on climate change like larger companies do, the little things can help make a difference and battle the situation at hand. Even if it means coming together and calling out large polluters hoping they will see that they need to make a change in order to help with the cause.