Wildfires Driving Strong Concern about Climate Change

Environmental Defense Action Fund

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Western wildfires are driving strong concern about climate change, with nearly three quarters of Americans (73%) saying recent weather events have made them more concerned about the impacts of climate change, according to a new national poll by EDF Action, an environmental advocacy organization. That concern spans generations, with 83% of Gen Z, 78% of Millennials, 71% of Gen X, and 70% of Baby Boomers expressing alarm.

That response was not limited to states directly experiencing the wildfires, and was reported in urban (84%), suburban (79%), rural (77%) settings. Voters fear a wide range of climate-driven impacts, saying they worry "a lot" that these impacts will hurt the environment (60%), agriculture (54%) and water quality (39%).

The findings have political implications as well. Three quarters (75%) of independent voters also say recent weather events like wildfires have made them more concerned about the impacts of climate change.

"The fires are wreaking havoc on communities up-and-down the West Coast," said EDF Action Senior Vice President for Climate, Nathaniel Keohane. "Americans are very concerned about the fires and the devastating impact they're having on our communities. People are waking up to the reality that climate change is here, and they're making the connection between this crisis and these extreme weather events. This is not a partisan issue—majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents say these fires are making them more concerned about climate change."

Keohane also criticized President Trump's attempts to undermine environmental protections, including limits on climate pollution. The president has sought to repeal or weaken more than 100 environmental safeguards. "It's clear that Donald Trump doesn't even believe that climate change is a problem. This week in California, he cast doubt on widely accepted scientific facts about our climate and appeared to blame the wildfires on 'exploding trees,'" said Keohane.

Large majorities of voters say wildfires have become both more frequent (79%) and more extreme (81%) in the past 3-5 years. That includes 81% of Independents, 83% of those who supported Presidents Obama and Trump.

Even before this year's devastating wildfire season, there was a dramatic increase in the damage they caused. The average wildfire season in the West is three and a half months longer than it was a few decades back, and the number of annual large fires has tripled—burning six times as many acres. Science shows that hotter temperatures and drier soils are behind this trend.

Worsening wildfires are also part of a larger trend of costly climate impacts across the U.S. Billion-dollar weather disasters fueled by climate change are becoming more frequent and more devastating to state and local economies, according to a report by Datu Research commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund, a partner organization of EDF Action.
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