SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The dramatic skies produced by unprecedented West Coast wildfire smoke have left everyone stunned, with even those who have long been ringing climate alarm bells looking for the right words.
Those people are hoping the smoke and unearthly skies that loomed overhead on September 9th send a message to everyone.
“It was a wake up call even to those of us who have thought about climate change — and worried about climate change, and fires and sea level rise — for decades,” said Dr. Peter Gleick of Oakland’s Pacific Institute. “It was a shock to all of us.”
For Gleick, the past decade has been a steady march of climate-related issues. Five years of exceptional drought was followed by a year of historic rainfall. Now California has seen four years of unprecedented wildfires.
What the state has experienced over the past few weeks may feel like an exclamation point to all of that. Gleick says it is more like a comma.
“It’s not that the fires have been caused by climate change; it’s that what we are experiencing is increasingly influenced by climate change,” Gleick explained. “That’s the message. We can no longer talk about these things without talking about the role that humans are playing and making these problems worse.”
“I think, really, the news media needs to get off its collective duff immediately and understand that we are in an emergency and they need
to represent it as such,” said Genevieve Guenther, founder of the “End Climate Silence” campaign.
Guenther’s hashtag was trending on the coattails of the many amazing images people shared Wednesday. She just hopes everyone that snapped a picture is also connecting the dots behind what they’re seeing.
“You can just think of it as 2020,” Guenther said. “You’ve seen a lot of tweets like that. People tweet the photograph of what San Francisco looked like and say, ‘Oh, 2020, could you get any worse?’ As if once we get into 2021, these disasters are going to stop happening. It’s not just 2020. It’s that the future has come to us.”
Their hope is that the impression made by these skies will cut through some of the smoke surrounding the science.
“If you think this is bad now, it gets exponentially worse with each degree of warming, it’s not like a nice linear step up,” Guenther said. “What we saw last night and the day before it’s just going to be our future. And it’s an unlivable future.”