Marshall Fire expected to put climate change at top of Boulder City Council’s agenda for 2022

The rarity of a winter fire razing Boulder County subdivisions a few weeks ago has all fingers pointed at climate change.

In the news and on these opinion pages, climate experts and healthy planet advocates – including a perceptive 14-year-old named Emma Weber – are all saying the same thing: the Marshall fire is a wake-up call that climate change isn’t just a global phenomenon to be planned for the long term, it’s a disaster that could happen today, tomorrow or next week and in our own backyards.

Climate science has made it clear for some time that human activity – including the burning of coal, oil and gas, and the clearing of forests – has warmed the planet. Because our Earth is an interconnected and dynamic living system, this unnatural increase in temperature has resulted in anomalous events, including severe and more frequent wildfires in Colorado, intense droughts, massive floods, and a shortage of water. water.

The Marshall Fire spread as it did due to high winds reaching more than 100 mph and severe weather unmistakably attributed to climate change, according to local climate experts including assistant climatologist Becky Bolinger.

First, there was tall grass and undergrowth fed by unusually heavy spring rains. But then came months of severe drought that created this fuel for the fire. Add to the equation that Boulder and much of the Front Range and the state were experiencing the hottest, driest months on record: Boulder had received only a quarter of its typical rain and snow since April, and Colorado was experiencing its warmest second half of a year for average temperature on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2021 report released this month.

It wasn’t a question of if, but when and where a fire might start, Bollinger and his team at the Colorado Climate Center explained to Denver Post reporters this month.

It would be a normal human reaction to want to think that the Marshall Fire was just a one-time anomaly and to think that climate change is something happening ‘out there’, with the penguins on the melting ice , or possibly the Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon, where it hit 116 degrees last summer.

We heard from homeowners in blocks outside the evacuation zone, who said they hadn’t thought to pack a bag because they felt like the fire would never reach them. . But for a random direction of the flames determined by the wind, they were spared.

What is surprising is that the Marshall Fire burned in densely populated Boulder County suburbs (not forested and mountainous areas prone to wildfires) and in December, but this tells us that we we have to prepare for severe forest fires or any climate catastrophe at any time. time and anywhere.

We are so happy to hear that the victims of the Marshall fire seem to be finding the immediate help they need from the community and government to recover from their massive losses. There is still a long way to go, no doubt. And Democratic state lawmakers are now talking about a push for statewide wildfire building codes that have been thwarted in the past by homebuilder associations. Research shows that these codes can limit the damage caused by wildfires.

In Boulder, our city council just completed its annual retreat to set priorities for 2022, and we mentioned in Thursday’s editorial, “Framing 2022 as a year of transparency and openness would win the goodwill of the city council of Boulder” that climate change rises to one of the two main issues that should drive the agenda. The Marshall Fire drives that point home. Every citizen can do what they can to reduce their own carbon footprint, but our leaders must support and pursue aggressive policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The other major issue for Boulder in the year is COVID-19, but there is a difference. With COVID-19 we have modicum of control – we can temporarily shut down businesses and schools, stay home or limit exposure – but as more and more climate-induced disasters occur , there will be no more time to plan or prepare .

Because nature never closes

— Julie Marshall for the Editorial Board

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