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PD Editorial: Global climate inaction continues

  • Fire rages along the slopes of The Geysers geothermal field on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (KENT PORTER/ PD)

The Geysers wildfire fire scorched more than 3,500 acres in northern Sonoma County last week. Meanwhile, half a world away, representatives from nearly 200 nations continued to stumble toward an agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.

Debate about whether these events are connected will continue. But what is beyond debate is that without action, climate change will continue — continue to create conditions conducive to wildfires in California.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland, ended Nov. 22 with participants agreeing that the world must do something — eventually. The nations will meet again in the spring to talk about what, and then again in Paris in 2015 to consider adopting some plan to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

The world kicks the can down the road while greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, trapping more and more heat.

The Warsaw meeting was the 19th "Conference of the Parties" over almost two decades, and it was as ineffective as most of the others. Only COP-3 in 1997 produced something truly substantive — the Kyoto Protocols.

The United States never got around to ratifying Kyoto, so it is difficult to be optimistic about the country embracing any Paris Protocols. America remains a nation in which one major political party rejects the scientific reality that humans are responsible for rising global temperatures.

Science cannot pin a particular extreme weather event to a long-term phenomenon such as climate change. It doesn't work that way. What it can do, though, is identify events that are indicative of what is to come.

So, the massive Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines earlier this month might or might not have been a product of warmer sea and air from climate change, but the world will almost certainly see more storms like it in years to come as temperatures increase.

The 2012 assessment from the California Climate Change Center warns of drier, warmer weather that will leave our region ripe for more-frequent, more-damaging wildfires.

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