A single, devastating California fire season wiped out years of efforts to cut emissions from the state’s power industry, even as the nation’s climate science was reaching a milestone.
The flames destroyed three-quarters of the state’s 5.1 million acres of forest, forcing thousands of residents to flee from their homes. The fires forced the closing of more than 1 billion power-plant fuel-switching operations, and the release of some of the vast quantities of emissions likely to have contributed to the planet’s warming for years to come.
The fires and the fires’ destruction of a state that once inspired hopes of turning the U.S. into the world’s biggest solar power state are also contributing to the global gloom over the role of climate change in the U.S. and worldwide.
California now faces what may end up being a global climate crisis, with a record 15 of the 17 hottest years on record occurring in the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The state is already in its hottest decade and is on pace for a temperature record that could surpass California’s.
California is now the nation’s third-largest emitter after China and the United States, accounting for some 13% of all U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.
But even as California faced its worst fire season on record, its economy saw a record-breaking 4-1/2% growth in 2018, according to the latest available state data on employment and sales. California’s gross-domestic-product (GDP) in 2018 was $2.29 trillion, 4.5% lower than 2017’s $2.39 trillion.
California’s economic growth is one of the fastest among the nation’s big states and its employment levels are among the highest.
The fire season is the worst on record in California’s history, with more than 3,800 acres burned and 33 structures destroyed.
But the record is even more dismal in the context of the overall economic growth in the state in recent years.
What this means is that in addition to the loss of some $6.8 billion (U.S.) in lost economic activity caused by lost output in California, there is also a financial cost