‘Am I scared? You betcha’: Here's why drought scientists have their bugout bags ready to go

‘Am I scared? You betcha’: Here's why drought scientists have their bugout bags ready to go

Climate change deniers, failing to see the big picture, will look at the increase in hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, flooding and other disasters and say, "So what? These things have always existed." Yes, they have, but they are becoming more severe, more intense and more common. Journalist Mike Pearl, in an article published by the Daily Beast on June 25, explains why a well-known scientist in Northern California — fearing an unusually bad season of wildfires in her state — has her bugout bag ready to go.

A bugout bag is a bag filled with essentials that, in the event of an emergency, one can grab and take off with in a hurry. And in arid California during the era of climate change, wildfires certainly qualify as an emergency.

The scientist is Inez Fung, a professor of atmospheric science who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area. Fung, fearing that the Summer of 2021 will be an especially bad season for drought and wildfires, told the Daily Beast, "My runaway bag is by the back door."

Fung used the term "runaway bag" rather than "bugout bag," but it's the same basic idea. And if Fung is threatened by wildfires, she wants to be able to grab that bag of essentials and take off ASAP.

On top of having her runaway bag or bugout bag ready in case she needs it, Fung is making sure her home is ready to deal with any indoor air quality issues that may arise because of wildfires. Fung, according to Pearl, has "equipped her home with indoor and outdoor air quality monitors, three portable air filtration units, and a stockpile of N-95 masks" — and she is doing so, Pearl writes, "in anticipation of drought-fueled wildfire."

Climate change, of course, didn't invent hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, tornados or severe flooding. Florida was being battered by hurricanes long before climate change; California has suffered wildfires and heatwaves for centuries. But what climate change deniers on the far right fail to comprehend is that it intensifies these occurrences and makes them more frequent. This means that when humid Florida and Louisiana are suffering from too much rain, California will be imperiled by a severe lack of it.

Climate change deniers would accuse Fung and other scientists of being alarmists, but as Pearl points out, they are merely looking at the facts and acting accordingly.

Pearl explains, "In a world where conversations about science often get mired in pointless, bad-faith arguments, pitting cynical science denial against overheated science-based panic, it's sometimes helpful to stare at tables of raw data. And the public hydrological data for California — to name just one state caught up in the drought — are horrifying."

Another scientist the Beast interviewed, Stanford University Earth science specialist James Holland Jones, is also quite worried about drought in the western United States. Jones told the Beast, "Am I scared? You betcha…. It's hot and dry, and it's only June."

Jones warned that in 2021, there are "almost certainly" more dead trees that can burn than there were in 2020.

The Stanford scientist told the Beast, "It's disturbing how many dead trees there are around the Stanford campus, and we have a very active and excellent team of arborists."

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