Excerpt from: CREDO Action
Five million acres in Alaska. 300,000 acres in the rainforest(!) of Washington’s Olympic peninsula, one of the wettest places on the continent. Nearly 600 homes and 40,000 acres in Northern California in a matter of hours last weekend.
- As the West endures one of the most destructive and alarming fire seasons in history, the way Congress funds wildfire response is actually making the problem worse.
In order to compensate for inadequate wildfire funding levels provided by Congress, federal agencies have been forced to divert $700 million from forest restoration and management funds — efforts which would help prevent wildfires to begin with!
A bipartisan group of senators has proposed the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which would finally treat wildfires as disasters and adequately fund response.1 The heads of President Obama’s Department of Agriculture, Interior, and Office of Management and Budget have called on Congress to pass the bill, and they should.2
Rising temperatures and enduring drought are making wildfires increasingly expensive and destructive: For the first time this year the Forest Service is spending more than 50% of of it’s budget on firefighting efforts, up from just 1/6th in 1995.
It goes without saying, adequate funding for catastrophic wildfire fighting is a band-aid response to a much bigger problem: That a majority in Congress are obstructing action to limit the very pollution which is almost literally fanning the flames of wildfires. Whether it is irony, denial, or both, many of the Republican sponsors of this wildfire bill are some of the worst climate deniers in Congress; western Republican senators like Mike Enzi, Mike Crapo, and John Barrasso.
That doesn’t make passing the bill any less important. But the rising cost of wildfires does make more indefensible the $11 billion in subsidies we give to fossil fuel companies every year.3
- The present and future of wildfires is truly terrifying.3 Global warming is creating a vicious, amplifying cycle for fire destruction: drought and higher temperatures pull moisture out of the forest, leading to increasingly destructive megafires. These fires release massive carbon bombs into the atmosphere, amplifying the warming.
In a new piece in Rolling Stone, journalist Tim Dickinson lays out the stark reality: Present levels of carbon pollution have already baked in what is estimated to be a sixfold increase in wildfires within 35 years. With current fire suppression capacity already maxed out, “America finds itself woefully unprepared for the blazes to come, much less the worst-case scenario: a Katrina by fire.”4
- Against this backdrop, (and Republican cries of deficit reduction), there is simply no excuse to continue giving billions of dollars a year in corporate welfare and tax breaks to the hugely profitable fossil fuel industry burning our country down. The need to transition away from fossil fuels couldn’t be more urgent, yet we are subsidizing the mature fossil fuel industry at nearly six times the rate of the emerging renewable industry.
Of course, a majority in this Congress still denies that there’s anything wrong with burning fossil fuels, so repealing fossil fuel subsidies before the next fire season is a longshot. But with the rare possibility of bipartisan agreement on a needed budget fix, we need to build momentum to address escalating wildfires and phase out the fossil fuels making them more destructive.
- Tell Congress: Pass the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act… and repeal fossil fuel subsidies to pay for it. Go to CREDO Action to sign the petition.
The petition reads:
- “It’s long past time to adequately fund escalating wildfires, and stop subsidizing the global warming pollution making them worse. Pass the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act… and repeal fossil fuel subsidies to pay for it.”
Thanks for taking action against wildfires.
Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
“Senators Pledge to Work Together on Wildfire Funding,” Senate Budget Committee
“USDA, DOI, and OMB Urge Congress to Fix the Fire Budget,” USDA, 9/15/15
“End Polluter Welfare Act,” Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison
“What Megablazes Tell Us About the Fiery Future of Climate Change,” Rolling Stone, 9/15/15
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