California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said last week that the ongoing impacts of climate change could soon spark in the Americas the same kind of human mass migration currently underway in Europe, where hordes of refugees are fleeing to escape the civil war in Syria.
Brown’s comments came in regard to the impact of at least a dozen deadly wildfires ravaging the Golden State. Over 11,000 firefighters are working to stop those blazes, which have displaced tens of thousands of residents, burned hundreds of buildings and torched over 735,000 acres of land. At a news conference last week, fire officials said the state has seen 6,000 fires already this year, 1,500 more than at this time in 2014. Worse, there are at least one to two months more of the peak fire season before any hope of an anticipated El Nino rainy season could tamp down the dry conditions that have fueled those fires.
A study released and published last week in the journal Nature indicated that California’s drought is the worst in at least 500 years. It is not just California, however. Another study by scientists at NASA said that unless greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced by 2050, most of the Southwest could endure an epic drought that could last up to 30 years.
Many in California are banking on the impending winter bringing a rain-heavy El Nino, which weather scientists believe could be the strongest in decades. But even if the El Nino does arrive, they believe most of its impact will be felt in Southern California in the form of rain, not with snow in Northern California, which serves as the state’s largest natural reservoir. Even if it does bring a healthy dose of snow, Brown is not optimistic it alone can counter the impact climate change is having on California and the western United States.
“This is not just this year,” he told reporters at a news conference last Monday. “This is the future, from now on. It’s going to get worse, just by the nature of how the climate’s changing.”
If so, he says, it could well lead to large numbers of people leaving their current homes in search of areas with more plentiful water.
“What we’re seeing in Europe now with mass migrations, that will happen in California. Central America and Mexico, as they warm, people are going to get on the move. It’s a real challenge,” Brown said, adding, “We have a chance to minimize this significantly, but it takes real commitment, and it’s not business as usual.”
What Brown describes is not without precedent in U.S. history. The Dust Bowl – a severe drought that ravaged Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Texas and several other Midwest and Southwest states in the 1930s – led to approximately 3.5 million people leaving those locales for better conditions elsewhere.
Brown also continued to criticize GOP presidential candidates for what he says is their denial of climate change as a serious threat.
“GOP presidential candidates, to a person, have failed to respond to the profoundly serious threat that climate change represents to the people of the world. That’s nothing less than a dereliction of duty,” he said last Tuesday at the U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit in Los Angeles, where he also announced the extension of an agreement between China and California to work on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. (LEXIS NEXIS STATE NET, SACRAMENTO BEE, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)
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