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The Role Of Climate Change In Wildfires: Significant, But Not Singular

Manny Becerra

As wildfires erupt across the Western U.S., environmental scientists note that they’ve started earlier and have burned more intensely than in previous years. 

Erica Fleishman is Director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University. She says weather patterns have trended consistently with what researchers know about climate change, but this doesn’t mean it’s the sole factor behind recent fires.

“The vast majority – not all – but the vast majority of fires in the western United States are now caused by human activity," said Flieshman.  "And that doesn’t mean necessarily someone being careless or someone being malicious. But it can mean powerlines going down, just the fact that where there are humans, and there are humans doing things, and there’s human infrastructure, there will be sparks.”

In other words, with more people come more sources of potential ignition for fires.  Hotter, drier conditions are just part of the broader picture.

Copyright 2021, KLCC. 

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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