Seattle, WA –100% of Washingtonians lives in counties affected recently by weather-related disasters, including the droughts and wildfires that ravaged Washington this summer, according to new interactive map using data from the federal government. Scientists say global warming is already exacerbating some extreme weather events and their impacts.
“We used to think of climate change as a problem that would happen someday, somewhere,” said Bruce Speight, Executive Director of Environment Washington. “But as this map helps demonstrate, global warming is happening now, and it’s already hitting close to home.”
Environment Washington researchers, who created the online map, found that this year set the record for the largest wildfire in Washington State history. The Okanogan Complex of wildfires burned more than 250,000 acres. Scientists say unchecked global warming will increase the frequency, severity and the catastrophic impacts of summer wildfires. Washington witnessed these increases, with more than 8 million acres scorched in less than a month. Scientists predict unchecked global warming will increase the frequency, severity and the catastrophic impacts of events like this.
The map reveals that nationwide, more than 40 million Americans live in counties that were affected by more than five weather disasters over the last five years, while counties housing 96 percent of the population experienced declared disasters at least once.
The analysis comes as states along the West Coast, including Washington, lead the fight to implement the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever limits on carbon pollution.
It also comes just weeks before world leaders convene in Paris to reach an international agreement to slash global warming emissions.
“Climate change poses immediate threats to our security and the resources of our region,” said King County Council Chair Larry Phillips. “As such, I am honored to attend the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December to represent King County as a Local Climate Leaders Circle delegate, urging support for a global climate agreement as a critical step for governments around the world to reduce their carbon footprint and prevent the disasters we already see happening around us.”
Since the pre-industrial era, average global temperature has increased by nearly a degree Celsius, and climate scientists view another degree increase as untenable, leading to increasingly extreme weather events that will make parts of the world uninhabitable.
“To avoid even more dangerous climate impacts,” said Speight, “we need our leaders to act boldly to slash carbon pollution and transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”
Environment Washington Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentWashingtoncenter.org.