Fire, Climate Change, and Measure P

The Indy says: “If you are concerned with climate change, vote ‘yes’ on P.” Everyone should be concerned about climate change! It’s not just an opinion, as in do you prefer this food or that one. It is extremely serious business that will affect everyone. It is not one that will be reversible within our lifetime. It must be prevented.

Firefighters should particularly be concerned with climate change, and many are, as I know from talking with them. They know that in a warmer world, fire intensity and frequency will increase. We are already seeing it in the western part of the United States. And that is only the beginning.

As a climate scientist and someone who lost her house in the Jesusita Fire, I have worked with firefighters on research programs at UCSB in the past decades. They are smart and reasonable people, aware of the fire danger created by climate-change-induced drier conditions, higher temperatures, and rapidly changing wind conditions. I thank firefighters for their hard work trying to save my house and admire their courage. And I also encourage more of them to come forward and inform the public about this connection. We need them fighting the fires but also explaining to the public what is to come — because they know it.

As to Measure P, we all understand that this local fight has broader ramifications. The amount of money poured by oil and energy companies in our county to fight it makes this more than just a small local fight against a group of tenacious environmentally minded people who put Measure P on the ballot. It represents the fight against transitioning toward the clean renewable energy system that is now possible to put in place on a worldwide basis. This will be a system in which we can and will continue producing and using fossil fuels based on the existing infrastructure, but we will gradually decrease new investments, starting with some of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels, like the heavy oil here.

Santa Barbara should be part of this transition by voting “yes” on P, a measure that would let the existing oil extraction activities continue but prevent the expansion of those that are particularly damaging to our environment and our health. Existing oil extraction is more than enough to maintain our amazing lifestyle in Santa Barbara.

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