New data about last year's wildfires around Victoria, Australia, and a recent drought in California have reawakened people there and in the United States to the urgent need to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change.
In Australia, in particular, the Victoria fires underscored the vulnerability of the nation's vulnerable city center to forest fires; last year's fires killed 173 people and injured more than 200. One of the rare positive aspects of the fires was the chance to remind people that climate change is already having a significant impact on their communities and they should take steps to limit it.
A few months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown issued a similar challenge for California to do what it can to limit climate change in the next few years. Last year, he led a national commission that came up with nine initiatives to achieve the goal.
Photos of the rain-soaked capitol of the state, Sacramento, flood online, and the impressive effect of the California drought floods has had on architecture and urban planning. Photos of the rain-soaked capitol of the state, Sacramento, flood online, and the impressive effect of the California drought floods has had on architecture and urban planning. SEE MORE VIDEOS
The recommendations, which require legislative approval, range from supporting cities' efforts to reduce carbon emissions to replanting land that has been denuded by growing vegetation. Some would require increased fuel-storage reservoirs. Brown has emphasized the importance of these recommendations.
While the recommendations to slow climate change may seem at first blush to be a prudent attempt to slow the reach of climate change, it's possible that they are dangerously predictable, enabling the state to overpromise and underdeliver. A world of rising carbon emissions, even if the speed of the global climate change does not rise, is better than the one of nuclear destruction or another human tragedy like we saw last summer. But we are far from being on track to meeting the 1.5-degree target. And it's worth noting that as the economic chaos of the Brexit crisis has shown, one of the consequences of climate change may be a collapse of nations of civilization.
David Henkin, former editor of the Los Angeles Times, was executive editor of the Chicago Tribune, until 2014. Follow him on Twitter: