The problems stemming from climate change will be expressed through water. On the Atlantic coast, we all have images of waves pouring into and through our cities, but in the West, the issue is not one of too much water, but too little.
Climate change makes wet places wetter and dry places drier. In the West, one result of a long term drought is more and more devastating wildfires.
2013 is already a huge wildfire year; and it may become a record year after a series of very bad wildfire years. So far this year almost 4,000,000 million acres have burned, an area larger than the state of Connecticut.
Here in San Francisco, we have become acutely aware of the dangers the Rim Fire near Yosemite. That fire is already the largest fire in the recorded history of the Sierra Nevada, a fact that by itself should give everyone pause. For many of us though, the surprise has been the threat this fire has posed to our drinking water, most of which comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park. The threat to our drinking water will continue for years because of erosion and flooding as a result of the burned forest.
San Francisco is not alone. Twenty-percent of the clean water for our nation's cities originates in forests. In the west, major cities depend on water from forests. In addition to San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Denver and even Los Angeles depend on clean water that originates in forests. Huge wildfires could pose a toxic threat to metropolitan populations hundreds of miles from the fire, populations that feel falsely secure from these fires. [Climate Progress]