West Coast wildfires

Wildfires ravage California and Oregon forests

Tristan Fortsch/KATU-TV via AP.

3 minute read — By Daisy Olyett

Antifa, Proud Boys, poor “forest management” or climate change: who is to blame for the wildfires raging through the West Coast of the U.S.? Within a matter of months, the fires which have claimed ten lives in Oregon and affected 1 in 10 of its inhabitants have been transformed into a political pawn by both the extreme left and the right. After several clashes in BLM protests anti-fascist militant group Antifa as well as the far-right equivalent, Proud Boys, have been blamed for causing the fires that have swept across twelve states. Whilst these shameless acts of finger pointing seem insignificant, the real issue of climate change has been quite literally put on the back burner.

The American West Coast is home to some of the world’s most environmentally irresponsible organisations, including energy giants like Chevron who are the second worst global polluter. In addition to this, areas such as California experience frequent droughts which increase the risk of forest fires within the state and their neighbours. Due to this ongoing climate emergency around 4.5 million acres of forest have been destroyed (an area just smaller than Wales), leaving stretches of infertile land and has left family homes in ruins. Dozens of people remain missing in the wake of the devastation as 40,000 Oregon local have been evacuated from their homes in the midst of a global pandemic.

However, as the red haze of the apocalypse looms over the U.S. climate change deniers continue to look elsewhere for someone to blame, rather than the large corporations that offer some small dose of convenience to their lives. Across Oregon, California and the wider West Coast their temperatures have risen by 1°C since 1900; this may seem like a trivial statistic but this degree in warming affects the greater frequency of heatwaves, wildfires and unpredictable weather patterns. Since a considerable amount of this warming has occurred in the latter half of the century, climate change is occurring at a much faster rate than expected, which raises concerns of global temperatures rising by even 3°C in the near future.

Claims from the U.S. president on the matter seem to offer climate specialists little confidence that legislative change will come soon. Trump’s insistence that “it’ll get cooler” simply cannot solve an environmental crisis that is ravaging the West Coast. Furthermore, Trump has blamed the fires on poor “forest management”, and proposes a plan similar to that of Finland which mainly included mass deforestation. Although the U.S. president is well equipped to come up with short term solutions, it is well known to climate activists that mass deforestation only speeds up the process of global warming by depleting the earth’s main converter of carbon dioxide to oxygen. Moreover, Trump’s choice to make the U.S. the first ever country to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement (which strives to keep global temperatures from rising over 2°C) and his deregulation of industry offers a possible future of red skies over America.

It comes of little surprise that the majority of those who funded Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign (and his current one) own large energy corporations which still mine large amounts of oil and coal. As a result, many climate deniers (the left and right alike) have chosen to blame the likes of extremist political groups, individual arsons and even gender reveal parties for the widespread blazes which have affected an estimated 500,000 people. Some outlets went as far as to create bogus police reports claiming that several members of Antifa have been arrested for Arson. Climate Change cannot continue to be a political taboo when it starts to affect every aspect of not just American life but wider global temperatures.