Greenwire (subscription required) reported yesterday that more than 150 wildfires in Quebec have blanketed large swaths of the United States with unhealthy levels of particulate matter. Indeed, as of 9:00 AM on Thursday, June 8, New York City has the worst air quality of any metropolitan area in the world. Some businesses are advising workers to stay home.
Scientists are generally in agreement that climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of wildfires. And so we have a vicious cycle. Climate change makes wildfires worse. People stay inside and use their air conditioners to stay cool and filter out the air pollution. People in the United States and around the globe suffer from a range of illnesses and premature mortality. The world continues to get hotter, wildfires continue to get worse, and so it continues.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We could instead have a virtuous cycle. We pivot towards a zero carbon economy. We minimize further increases in global temperatures. We get the side benefit of reduced conventional air pollution, whether from traditional stack emissions or from wildfires. (And here’s a question. Why is it that “co-benefits” are a bad thing? How did that happen? Aren’t any benefits good, by their nature?)
Which future will we choose?