Wildfires in the western states have devastated millions of acres of land and hundreds of homes. The death toll of humans and animals is mounting. For those of us who have friends, relatives and colleagues in the west, we follow the updates with fear. The air quality ratings show that poor air quality impacts extend far beyond the fires, casting an orange glow and putting well over a million people at risk. The air quality risk further enhances the risk of COVID-19.
We can sit comfortably here in Pennsylvania, but it could be us some day. A primary driver of the fires in the west is climate change. The increasing heating of the western states and overgrowth of vegetation have fueled the fires extending the fire season. In the east, climate change and the warming earth is also generating extreme weather. This past summer ranks as one of the warmest years on record. The 2020 hurricane season expects a record number of hurricanes.
In Pennsylvania, the excessive rainfalls have repeatedly flooded regions now for 100 years. Whether we are talking about excessive heat or rainfall, the damage to our agricultural economy is notable as it has delayed planting and harvest times and yield. Both rising temperature levels and CO2 have a significant and direct role in stimulating weed growth and herbicide use. Protein content of grains has declined too.
This is a call to action: We must work to stop climate change to protect our health and economy.