Sonoma County has become another climate change ground zero. We have joined Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in the fast-growing club of areas with “unprecedented” climate change-related catastrophic events. Climate change has become personal.
The “new climate” turned a seasonal event into an unprecedented disaster in Sonoma County, where, in just the first 12 hours, the fires incinerated the majority of the more than 6,800 buildings that burned and caused, at least, 23 human casualties.
The environmental conditions created by the new climate set the stage for these fires in Northern California: more than 100 million dead trees statewide from five years of extreme drought, an unprecedented amount of winter precipitation that produced an abundance of grasses and shrubs, the hottest summer on record (highs of 106 degrees recorded in San Francisco and 114 in Santa Rosa) that dried the vegetation and unusually fast, dry and warm Diablo winds with gusts of up to 80 mph.
This is a sample of events to come in the near future. New atmospheric conditions are turning extreme weather events into common occurrences, which, if unchecked, will eventually eliminate our ability to respond to them.
Climate change has been wrongfully framed as a political issue, when, in actuality, it is a survival issue. Our life and wellbeing depend on the environment. If the environment does not support us, our chances of living and thriving are very low.
As we ponder how we are going to rebuild Sonoma County, we must consider that rebuilding without a vision of changing environmental conditions would be unconscionable. We have the opportunity to become a more resilient and prosperous county if we use “climate crisis action” as the core organizing principle of our society and economy.
That action has two main components: restoring the climate to more sustainable levels by becoming a carbon-negative economy and adapting to minimize the damage from climate crisis-related events to come. Both components are essential to achieve the massive scale and speed of action that solving the climate crisis requires.
The commitment to be a wiser and safer community that protects life, environment and property can be sealed by the executive power of our governments to issue climate change disaster declarations. These declarations would make available all our county resources and resources from the state, the federal government and other public and private organizations that could support our community by fully committing to deal with climate change.
Under these declarations, a more sustainable, faster and equitable recovery would be available, including more robust support for affected individuals and businesses.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and all the city councils in Sonoma County are urged to issue climate change disaster declarations for the sake of our future and the future of the human family.
Their declarations would have a powerful impact here, in California, in the other states and in the rest of the world. They can turn the worst catastrophe in Sonoma County into the greatest opportunity to build a livable and desirable future for all of us.
Jorge Rebagliati of Santa Rosa is owner of Quest Green Technology Products.