Maybe they could have waited a little longer after the fires were out to talk about the “environmental impact” — if not out of a just estimation of things, then just out of basic human decency. After all, as you stand on the ashes of your house, the prospect of warmer weather some time in the next century isn’t quite as immediate as the inferno that just torched all your earthly possessions.
In a sense, the science doesn’t even matter. The researchers who AP quotes — Jason Neff of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Christine Wiedinmeyer of the National Center for Atmospheric Research — have fine credentials, and their work probably stands up to scrutiny. They estimate that the wildfires released 8.7 million tons of carbon dioxide — “more than the state of Vermont produces in a year,” AP writer Seth Borenstein pointed out. (Ironically, it’s these sorts of details that remind you that carbon dioxide output doesn’t tell you all you need to know about a place. North Korea probably doesn’t put out as much CO2 as the state of California, but there are reasons for that.)
Yet, the way in which reporters have seized on it makes you wonder why people — Americans especially — seem so willing to let words on a page whip them into a frenzy when the world itself is kicking them in the pants.
It’s a strange testament to our historical moment. So humbled are we by our foreign policy failures, so great has our hubris become that we actually think we’re five miles per gallon away from Armageddon. The global warming faithful couldn’t be surer that we’re bringing about our own demise.
We can take comfort in the fact that just as we don’t have unlimited power to heal the world, we don’t have unlimited power to destroy it, either. And yet, there are other causes to which we might commit our resources as individuals, associations and a nation and actually accomplish something concrete.