Wildfires spew massive amounts of CO2 into the air, leading to poor air quality

Thomas Bun, Staff Writer

California touts itself as a leader in a progressive climate change agenda that requires some of the strictest air pollution measures in his- tory. By monitoring gaseous pollutants, toxic air contaminants and greenhouse gases, steps are being taken by the California state government to reduce climate change as much as possible.

However, most climate experts agree that the pollution caused by wildfires spews massive amounts of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere, laying claim to former Gov. Brown’s statement that man-made climate change is caused by the destructive wildfires that continue to wreak havoc on California. President Donald Trump, however, insists that the reason for the fires is instead poor forest management.

Because wildfires make up 15 percent of California’s total emissions, politicians debate what causes these fires and how to deal with them. Environmental activists believe that allowing forests to be untouched will reduce the number of man-made fires, which compose roughly 60 percent of all fires in California. This approach, however, leads to a buildup of underbrush and dead trees, which increases the probability of a large-scale fire. Those who believe that the fires are simply due to climate change spend millions on solar panels and wind power, but those resources could have been put towards fire-proofing or better forest management.

Due to the destruction fires bring to property, California has implemented zoning laws in an effort to help prevent constructing buildings

too close to areas where fires are likely to occur. With PG&E having a history of causing fires due to high winds, fuel plants and aging power- lines, any construction is done in areas where they are abundant are unsafe and are simply an invitation for large-scale fires.

Fires endanger both the atmosphere and the air quality of the planet, endangering all living beings. When the fires were at their peak in 2018, 876,147 acres burned in California, an over 300,000-acre increase from 2017. Approximately 41 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions were released into the air, causing some students to find the quality of the air too polluted to be able to do their daily routines.

“[The bad air quality] was a bother to me because it didn’t allow me to work out during my daily routine,” senior Julia Dundas said. “I couldn’t do anything highly intense and then breathe in that smoke.”

Those who suffer from severe asthma were affected most from poor air quality. Some students said they were putting themselves at higher risk just coming to school.

“I believe that they should’ve canceled school [during the fires] because my brother has really bad asthma,” junior Sally Huynh said. “By continuing to go to school, I feared his condition would only get worse.”

Some students wore masks to help them breathe easier. However, the masks helped little with the overall feeling of uneasiness that was brought about by the poor air quality.

“Even with the use of a mask, you would still be affected by the poor air quality because [the masks] aren’t able to filter everything,” senior Matthew Hancock said.