Total economic losses from the ongoing wildfires could soar to over $130 billion (which just to put things in perspective is more than half a Jeff Bezos) according to AccuWeather, which has tallied up losses from property damage, employment losses, health effects, insurance, road closures, disruption to food and utilities, and more.
And while a lot of that devastation has already occurred, meteorologists are pointing out that the season is still not over—and the Santa Ana winds could make things even worse in the coming months. But of course, none of this is a surprise; climate experts have been warning about fire seasons like this for years. And as bad as it's been, worse conditions may be on the way. Not only in the next few weeks, experts say, but in the coming years.
The damage associated with the fires so far is what we’d expect to see with a major hurricane, says AccuWeather CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers in a statement. Unusual drought conditions, coupled with unusual lightning strikes and an unusually long-lasting windy season are all combining to make fires worse than ever before. But the word “unusual” might not really be applicable anymore, since there’s a clear trend of warmer, weirder weather causing chaos.
So what do we do? In the short term, some experts say that small fires should be allowed to burn so that there’s less fuel for the big fires. (But that’s getting harder to do as more housing is built close to vulnerable areas.) California is moving ever so slightly closer to doing small burns
Long term, of course, humans will have to move away from burning fossil fuels if we want to curb climate change. Will that actually happen? So far, no, humans have calculated that it’s better to experience catastrophic fire seasons than give up their cars. Sure, the air sucks and people are dying. But hey, on the plus side, a small proportion of the planet’s population can drive private vehicles wherever they want. When you put it that way, apparently humans consider $150 billion of destruction per year to be a bargain.