The volume of acres that will be consumed by wildfires in an average year will soar 77 percent by the end of the century, according to a climate change study released Monday by state officials.
That would translate into roughly a half-million acres of additional wildfires in an average year -- or the equivalent of two extra Carr Fires. Currently about 720,000 acres burn in an average year, according to
The state's fourth Climate Change Assessment, released Monday, comes as
Now the state Legislature is considering a pair of bills that would ease restrictions on logging larger trees on private lands as a means of reducing fire risk. The bills also would give landowners more leeway to build temporary roads in their forests to facilitate logging operations.
Environmental groups generally agree with forest thinning to reduce the presence of wildfire "fuels" but are lining up to oppose the bills, saying the logging of big trees actually would worsen fire hazards. "It weakens environmental laws to allow more logging of large, fire-resistant trees," said
The Climate Change Assessment is a suite of 57 reports covering the projected impacts from global warming on topics including agriculture, water supply and public health. The assessment, the first in six years, was released Monday by the
In addition to growing wildfire risks, Californians will have to live with considerably hotter weather as global warming continues. Most climatologists believe average temperatures could rise by as much as 3.5 degrees by 2100. Inland areas, deprived of the cooling effects of the ocean, figure to suffer more. The report released Monday said average daily maximum temperatures in the
Already suffering from one of the worst seasons on record,
"A small handful of really large (fire) events contributes most of the impact," said Westerling, a fire-science expert, in an interview. "When you increase temperatures and make precipitation more variable, and all of the other effects we expect from climate change, you make those really extreme fires even more extreme."
Westerling said the expected increase in fire acreage will vary considerably by region, with the heavily forested mountain areas taking the biggest hit.
"Places like the
The increase in fire risk comes with a growing price tag. A companion report says homeowners can expect their residential insurance premiums to increase 18 percent by 2055 in the most fire-prone areas of
As it is,
The Climate Change Assessment said more aggressive management of
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