The western US has been choked with smoke from massive forest fires this month. These intense fires are more likely because of climate change. That will remain true for decades even if we swiftly eliminate emissions – it will take time for climate systems to go back to normal.
But these fires are also more intense because of human mismanagement of forests. After years of suppressing natural fires, forests have an unnaturally large amount of dry underbrush. So when fires do happen, they can become much larger and hotter than they would naturally be. Everyone from firefighters to forest ecology professors will say that we should be spending far more on prevention of intense fires so that we don’t need to spend as much on firefighting and damage repair. But even as forest fires have reached historic levels of horror in the past couple years, the US has not taken this need for prevention seriously.
The Biden climate plan proposes creating a Civilian Conservation Corps, which would employ people of all backgrounds and create greater career pathways for Americans from disempowered communities. This workforce would, among other work, collaborate with scientists to remove excessively dense growth from forests – thinning them to a natural level so that when forest fires happen, they don’t become the apocalyptic-looking infernos we have seen the last couple years.
The Civilian Conservation Corps that Biden proposes would also help manage forests sustainably, which can not only ensure resilience to fires but also increase the rate of CO2 sequestered by forests, thereby helping to solve climate change.
1491 by Charles Mann