In 2020, the U.S. experienced its most hazardous season of wildfire and related air pollution in recorded history. A number of factors contributed to an unprecedented outbreak of fire along the West Coast, with major burns and smoke stretching over 1,400 miles. Toxic air from these fires inundated cities from San Diego to Seattle for weeks, making them centers of the worst air quality worldwide and causing health impacts whose full extent remains unknown. With dozens of deaths, thousands of destroyed structures, including entire towns, and the severe impacts on daily life and health for many millions of people, the wildfire threat has become a proven issue of national security. While various factors are involved, scientists now highlight a clear pattern of climate-enhanced risks, including extreme heat, long-term drought, and tree mortality. There is no doubt that future years will bring similar, perhaps even larger-scale events. This Task Force will take up the question of how this threat should be addressed. It will have three basic aims: 1) research the key causes of these fires; 2) evaluate methods being used to reduce or prevent such devastating fires; and 3) determine policies that would best help advance such risk reduction in both the short-term and long-term.
JSIS 495H Task Force- Scott Montgomery: Climate Change and the Wildfire Threat: What Can be Done?
Commissioner of Public Lands, Washington State, Department of Natural Resources