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With Scores Dead and 1,000+ Missing in California Fires, New Study Warns Cities Will Soon Face Up to Six Climate Disasters at Once

November 20, 2018

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 15, 2018 in Paradise, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

While one-at-a-time disasters fueled by a rapidly warming planet have become commonplace in recent years—with the ongoing and deadly wildfires in California just one example—new research shows that by century's end the frightening new normal could be cities and states facing multiple extreme climate events all at once.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii found that without keeping the warming of the planet below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, major cities like New York, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro could soon face up to five catastrophic weather events in a single year—including wildfires, hurricanes, storm surges, and droughts.

The phenomenon has already taken place, the report notes, with Florida experiencing more than 100 wildfires, drought, and the severely destructive Hurricane Michael in the past year—but with most news reports and climate researchers focusing on one disastrous weather event at a time, the current reality has been obscured.

"A focus on one or few hazards may mask the impacts of other hazards, resulting in incomplete assessments of the consequences of climate change on humanity," lead author Camilo Mora told the Agence France Presse.

The report only bolsters the argument of those forced to issue urgent action demands in the wake of whatever climate-related disaster has most recently struck. In the U.S. right now, that means the unprecedented wildfires that have ravaged California in recent weeks.

"The costs of inaction greatly outweigh the costs of taking action on climate change," Michael Mann, a climatologist at Penn State University, told the AFP. "We can still reduce future damage and suffering if we act quickly and dramatically to reduce carbon emissions."

At least 80 people have been killed in the fires, with nearly 1,000 unaccounted for as of Tueasday morning, according to NBC.

"An untold number of people lost their lives due to the Camp Fire wildfire in California, many are missing and communities have been destroyed. Last week, the air quality in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay were the worst on the planet," said Abigail Dillen, president of Earthjustice, in a statement.

"The increasing risks make it clear that this nation must deepen its commitment to stemming climate change now. We cannot accept the tragic loss of life and displacement from these wildfires as the new normal," she continued. "We must honor the victims now by fighting for a better and safer tomorrow for their families and communities."

One far-reaching solution was the subject of direct actions in lawmakers' offices across the country on Tuesday, as the youth-led climate action group Sunrise Movement demanded that Democrats back the Green New Deal—a bold set of proposals modeled on the Depression-era New Deal and aimed at investing in carbon-free energy infrastructure and the millions of jobs it would create.


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