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Sept. 1, 2018, 10:44 a.m. EDT

California wildfire frequency could surge 50% by 2050, report finds

Fourth assessment of climate change in California makes for some grim, if predictable, reading

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By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch


Getty Images

The deadly wildfires that devastated parts of California this summer may be a harbinger of more catastrophes if greenhouse-gas emissions keep rising.

That’s one finding of a report released this week assessing the impact of climate change on the Golden State.

California could face an almost 50% increase in the number of wildfires that burn more than 25,000 acres, and the average area burned across the state would rise by 77% by the end of the century if emission trends are not reversed, the report found.

The report, the fourth such assessment to be carried out since 2006, was produced by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, the State of California Energy Commission and the California Natural Resources Agency, and includes peer-reviewed academic research, technical reports, data sets and tools that aim to boost understanding of climate change.

California is the world’s fifth largest economy and has been hit by such extreme weather events in recent years as drought, wildfires and mudslides.

State efforts

“In California, facts and science still matter,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a tweet on the report. “These findings are profoundly serious and will continue to guide us as we confront the apocalyptic threat of irreversible climate change.”

The 100-page report makes for grim, if predictable, reading and is meant to help state officials win public support for climate initiatives amid an uncertain federal-level policy response. Brown has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord , which seeks to keep global warming over the century to 2 degrees Celsius . Insurers have warned that any greater warming could make the world uninsurable.

See also: Trump administration stymies push for improved climate-risk disclosure among companies

Related: One year after Trump announcement on Paris accord, and climate activists are busy

Trump weighed in on the California fires in an early August tweet that blamed the state’s water diversions for making the blazes worse. Experts were quick to refute Trump’s claim that water policy was to blame. While California’s river water is tightly managed to account for drinking, agriculture and environmental needs, it is not being diverted into the ocean, as MarketWatch reported at the time.

Don’t miss: This amazing NASA map shows clouds of particles spreading across the globe

Drought, floods and beach erosion

“Increasing temperatures and rising sea levels will have direct impacts on public health and infrastructure,” the authors wrote.

“Drought, coastal and inland flooding, and wildfire will continue to affect people’s livelihoods and local economies,” they said. “Changing weather patterns and more extreme conditions will impact tourism and rural economies in California, along with changes to agriculture and crops, which are a critical backbone of California’s economic success.”

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