The President talks about climate change and wildfires

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On Tuesday President Obama made a major speech at Georgetown University about climate change. Within a few paragraphs, he used the word “fire”, “wildfire”, or “firefighters” five times.

Below is an excerpt from that section of the speech. The entire transcript is HERE.


“…The 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years. Last year, temperatures in some areas of the ocean reached record highs, and ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest size on record — faster than most models had predicted it would. These are facts.

Now, we know that no single weather event is caused solely by climate change. Droughts and fires and floods, they go back to ancient times. But we also know that in a world that’s warmer than it used to be, all weather events are affected by a warming planet. The fact that sea level in New York, in New York Harbor, are now a foot higher than a century ago — that didn’t cause Hurricane Sandy, but it certainly contributed to the destruction that left large parts of our mightiest city dark and underwater.

The potential impacts go beyond rising sea levels. Here at home, 2012 was the warmest year in our history. Midwest farms were parched by the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, and then drenched by the wettest spring on record. Western wildfires scorched an area larger than the state of Maryland. Just last week, a heat wave in Alaska shot temperatures into the 90s.

And we know that the costs of these events can be measured in lost lives and lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services and disaster relief. In fact, those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it — they’re busy dealing with it. Firefighters are braving longer wildfire seasons, and states and federal governments have to figure out how to budget for that. I had to sit on a meeting with the Department of Interior and Agriculture and some of the rest of my team just to figure out how we’re going to pay for more and more expensive fire seasons.”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

7 thoughts on “The President talks about climate change and wildfires”

  1. Not directly related to the President’s speech. However, the Forestry department in Turkey has reduced losses from Wildfires by over 80%. Prevention – education, fuel reduction; Expeditious suppression with strategic location of suppression assets, automated wildfire detection and location, enhanced communications: post fire monitoring and re growth in a amnner to mitigate wildfires.

  2. Here on the Coconino is a grand experiment to mechanically thin a portion of the 3? 4? million acres of spindly pine before it thins itself. This method is getting to several thousand acres a year. Meanwhile over on the Apache Sitgreaves they fireproofed about a half million acres in a month, via the Wallow fire. That was over a third of the A/S… I think maybe the wildfire industry is in a bubble, which in a decade or so will taper off to something more like a proportion of the land manager’s budget, as our forests resolve this fuel imbalance.

  3. Hmmm…

    Gotta love talk about fires, wildfires, climate change, et al

    How about funding and staffing your very own Executive Branch “Fire Departments” ……. aka Forest Service, NPS, BLM, BIA, FWS???

    It is hard to get excited about the President’s “Speech” and “Agenda” as the Federal wildland fire programs retreat backwards towards pre-FIRESCOPE chaos and mayhem.

    Oh my… retirement looks so good!!

    That is reality in the current system…. In years past, the “Captain’s” wanted to stop the sinking ship and steer it towards a greater future …… Nowadays…. the battle is LOST…. It is best to bail out early and follow all-hands overboard… swim fast… get away from the UNDERTOW …..


    Today is my 31st year on the job!! Disgusted at our “leadership”…. Utterly disgusted at the lack of leadership (upwards and downwards).

    Don’t believe me??…. Ask ANY person on the job if they think things are going well or better things are on the horizon!!

    1. Ken – I’ll respect your opinions (although reserve the right to disagree) if you’ll tell me and the other readers that you will not retire from your Agency and then immediately sign on to a County Department so you can get the high-paid AD rates working on Fed fires, like so many other are doing?

      1. High Pay AD rates what… some of these rates don’t even come close to what agency folks were making when they were fighting fires as agency folks.

        1. RE: high AD rates — yeah right. Some years ago the USFS had a record number of UTF orders for helicopter managers on incidents. So what happened the next year? The business management folks at NIFC dropped the AD rates for helicopter managers by several dollars per hour. Brilliant.

      2. Emmett,

        I have been with the Forest Service since I was a 14 year old “Explorer Scout”. I pretty much have dedicated my career to the federal land management agencies.

        In all of that time, we are facing the worst crisis in leadership that I have ever seen.

        It is time for fire management and fire suppression to be ripped out of the hands of the Forest Service since “Fire Leadership” is NEVER at the same table when decisions about the “fire program” are so many “Leadership Teams” that exist……(DLT, FLT, RLT, LOT, WFLC, etc you name the dysfunctional acronym and each successive layer of bureaucracy… bureauCRAZY.)



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