A Congressional task force of representatives and climate experts convened on Tuesday, where they concluded that the worsening of wildfires devastating the U.S. is in fact due to climate change, an unprecedented statement for a government body.
The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change forum—led by Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse—included the voices of forestry, wildfire, and climate experts. Panelists cited a number of reasons for the increase in wildfires, including land-use patterns and insect activity, but the discussion was dominated by the impact of climate change, The National Journal reports.
"We've been experiencing wildfire activity that is different and more dangerous," Waxman said in his opening statement, calling recent fires some of the "largest and most intense ... we've seen."
"If current greenhouse-gas emission trends are not sharply reversed in the immediate future, we will see observed trends in wildfire risk accelerate," warned William Sommers of the International Association of Wildland Fire, agreeing with what the other panelists said.
The meeting ended with Rep. Waxman reiterating that Congress cannot afford to ignore the link between climate change and wildfires.
"It's going to continue to get worse and ... this isn't the only problem that we're facing because of climate change," Waxman concluded. "We've got to wake up the American people and their representatives and we've got to deal with this issue."
Lucia Brown is a summer editorial intern at Common Dreams.