For over a week, a natural disaster has struck severely — and devastatingly so — in the back yard of Colorado.
The High Park Fire near Fort Collins has already burned more than 58,000 acres of forestland in the Centennial state while destroying 184 homes. The fire, which has left many residents who’ve lost their homes asking themselves, “What now?”, and which is responsible for the tragic death of 62-year-old Linda Stredman, is not the only fire burning in Colorado.
The Springer Fire, near Colorado Springs has burned 1,100 acres and lead to evacuations.
Unfavorable weather conditions have caused further concerns over the ability to contain the fires. The extreme dry conditions, warm temperatures and high winds are hampering efforts. The High Park fire has been burning since June 9th and is only 50 percent contained thanks to the hard work of about 1,700 firefighters. Investigators have said the fire was started as a result of a tree struck by lightning.
States across the country have also experienced fires. In neighboring New Mexico firefighters are battling the Little Bear fire, which is 60 percent contained. The emergence of forest fires is attributed to current weather conditions that have lead to high alert for states in the southwest U.S.
It’s not unusual in Colorado to experience weather extremes. Earlier this month a storm system hit several counties causing severe hail damage, heavy rain and tornado and flood warnings.
Such extreme weather patterns have renewed debate about whether it is due to the earth’s natural weather patterns or if climate change has had a hand in the matter.
A recent study by scientists published in the journal Ecosphere, indicated that the changes in weather patterns would lead to increased wildfires in western United States and in Europe. Scientists also wrote that increased temperature in these regions would lead to more fires over the next 30 years. Alternatively, countries located near the equator would experience less fires because of increased rainfall.
Discussions over climate change have been argued passionately from both sides of the debate, but political and international attention over the matter has been places in the back seat in order to address other immediate matters. Case in point — the United Nations’ Rio+20.
The first Rio Earth Summit was held 20 years ago in Brazil. This year, world leaders have gathered once again to discuss sustainability. The summit will take place from June 20-22 where 130 heads of states are expected to attend.
While symbolic, expectations for the summit are low because of the gloomy economic outlook in Europe and shaky financial state of the United States.
President Barack Obama announced that he would not be in attendance at the summit in Rio. He was present, along with other world leaders, at the G20 in Los Cabos, Mexico, which took place from June 18-19. In his place Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead a delegation at the summit. The U.N. has said the conference will be of major impact concerning sustainability.
“In Los Cabos, I will ask leaders to once again look not just at their national concerns but at the common good, which is inextricably linked to their own interests,” said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon prior to attending the G20 summit earlier this week. “We need a powerful, coordinated solution to the worldwide jobs crisis and decisive action to avoid a new global recession. We need inclusive green growth that can drive sustainable development.”
He continued: “In Los Cabos, I will stress the need to integrate and balance the three pillars of sustainable development — economic, social and environmental,” Ban said. “The G20’s work can and must be complementary to the goals and outcome of Rio+20.”