Daily Video

September 3, 2009

A Link Between Climate Change and Wildfires?

While wildfires rage on in California, another western state has had its share of forest fires in recent years.

Average spring temperatures have risen nearly three degrees in Washington State since 1950. Scientists and researchers are noticing that with the warmer climate, there has been an increased incidence of mountain pine beetles that damage pine trees, making them vulnerable to fires.

The so-called Tripod Complex fire in 2006 in Washington burned 180,000 acres of forest and cost the state tens of millions of dollars.

In this video, Climate Central correspondent Heidi Cullen is in Washington state to look at the relationship between global warming and a spike in wildfires in the region.


“A forest fire certainly has a huge impact on business. I think the biggest concern for us is that they’re catastrophic fires, meaning that, when they start, they’re going to go all summer long. They’re going to encompass large areas. And the fires do burn so hot that the trails may not open for a couple years. So, it limits our recreation. And it’s just unsafe.” – Rita Kenny, mountain sports store owner”[Fires are] destructive to the habit. It’s a huge health impact on the residences all around. And it’s scarring that landscape for really a century on the east side of the mountains, where precipitation is very low, and where recovery is very painful. It’s very destructive.” – Peter James Goldmark, commissioner of public lands, Washington State”The Sierra Club and the environmentalists, they think they’re protecting the forest. But, by protecting it, keeping the loggers out, letting the disease and the bugs go rampant, they have done more damage than they have done good. I consider myself a conservationist, but you have to use common sense. And it’s a crop. You have got to take care of it. If you don’t take care of it, nature is going to, and catastrophic wildfires are a result.” – Roger Townsend, Washington resident

Warm Up Questions

1. What is a forest wildfire? Where and why do they occur?

2. What is global warming? What causes it?

Discussion Questions

1. What did you know about forest fires before this video? Have you or anyone you know been affected by a wildfire?

2. What are the different consequences of fires discussed in the video?

3. Can you think of other instances where global warming has been cited as a cause of natural disasters? What happened in those cases?

4. Some people use the phrase “global warming”, some people use “climate change”, how are the meanings different? Why do you think people use one word or another?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

Climate Central

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