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Why California's wildfires
are a wicked problem

Overlooked causes — and what that
means for better solutions

The California fires are getting worse. A 2019 study showed that the annual area burned by wildfires in California has increased by 500% since the 1970s. They're also getting more expensive. Since 2014, California has used nearly 90% of the FEMA funding allocated to states for wildfires (up from a mere 15% between 1988 and 2013!).

Climate change and faulty power lines are a frequently cited culprit. They certainly play a role, but they're not the main event. Rather, we should look more carefully at development in fire-prone areas, and, paradoxically, fire suppression — which enables dense vegetation in dry areas, increasing fire risk.

So what are we to do? A critical solution may be as necessary as it is unpopular: stricter rules on housing near wildland and stricter vegetation controls.

Fighting fire with fire >>>

The power of agricultural R&D

What the Democratic candidates are missing

Election season is nearing, and it's been exciting to see that a lot of Democratic candidates are thinking about a greener food and agriculture system. Which candidates' proposals hold the most promise for really addressing the environmental impacts of agriculture?

We focused on agricultural research and development, which, historically, has had the most to offer, primarily by increasing yields while using fewer inputs. Most candidates, however, seem to undervalue the effectiveness of R&D; Bernie Sanders, for example, proposed an increase in funding by $1.5 billion. This sounds substantial, but would only bring funding to the level it was at in the early 2000s.

More ambitious climate plans >>>
An Elder Millennial's Climate Journey
New on the Breakthrough Dialogues podcast
Julian Brave NoiseCat self-identifies as a “capital C, capital P” Climate Person. Formerly of and now at Data for Progress and the Natural History Museum, Julian is fueled by work that is wide-ranging and topical: we cover his feelings as an “elder millennial” in a climate movement led by energetic youth, how he wishes Kanye West would intervene, and whether it’s more important to focus on bipartisanship or a better-articulated Democratic climate plan.
A "capital C, capital P" Climate Person >>>
📚This is what we're reading this week 📚
A new study finds that intact forests store up to six times more carbon than those already partly deforested.

The world is not going to halve carbon emissions by 2030, so now what?

Making concrete, steel and glass requires lots of heat — and lots of greenhouse gases. The U.S. needs an agenda to decarbonize heavy industry.

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