Climate change has made fire threat worse than 2000


A recent piece in the June 5 Journal compared federal and state actions on the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire this year unfavorably to federal-state action on the Cerro Grande fire in 2000. The problem with such a comparison is the world now is a very different place than it was in 2000.

Climate change has accelerated the Western wildfire problem since 2000. Temperatures in northern New Mexico have increased between 1 and 1.5 degrees, while the entire Southwest has experienced drought conditions since 2002. Higher temperatures and drought have created perfect wildfire conditions. In 2000, fires burned 6.9 million acres in the West, a number the federal government categorized as “historic.” That burn acreage is now routine. In 2020, the number of acres burned was 10.1 million and in 2021 it was 7.1 million. Legislation to halt climate change is imperative.

The second problem is Republican politics. The Biden administration has introduced climate change legislation but it lies dormant in Congress because the Republican Party has seen fit to simply ignore its job. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell declared he is 100% focused on preventing passage of any part of the Biden agenda. Thus, there has been no Senate action on Biden’s stated goals of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which would halt increases in global temperatures, and the investment of millions in sustainable forest conservation programs.

So, if you believe in stopping climate change, and in creating healthier and more fire-resistant forests, vote this fall. Vote for candidates who will address climate change. It is your chance to change the world.

Gail Stephens is a retired senior executive of the U.S. Department of Defense and a former professional U.S. Senate staffer.

This article originally appeared in The Albuquerque Journal