Climate change: Wildfires raging in North America show why Edinburgh's new cycle lanes are important – Steve Cardownie

The news coverage throughout the world’s media on climate change and its devastating effect on North America as wildfires ravage huge swathes of land, once more reminds of the need to take affirmative action before it’s too late.

One forest fire in the USA in particular is continuing to exact a heavy toll on the local population.

Started by lightning on July 6, the “Bootleg Fire” is one of the USA’s largest wildfires, continuing to burn fiercely as it spreads in southern Oregon.

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As of last Sunday, the fire had scorched over 408,930 acres of land and was 46 per cent contained. This is just one of the many blazes currently raging throughout the continent as more than 22,000 firefighters battle 86 large wildfires in throughout the United States, which have collectively burned 1.5 million acres of land – with most of the fires burning in western states where extreme drought conditions have been reported.

These more destructive wildfires are now being regarded as the new normal due to climate change with hundreds more fires burning in the Canadian province of British Columbia where a state of emergency was declared last week.

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So severe is the crisis that 100 firefighters from Mexico have been deployed to work alongside wildfire service crews and firefighters to fight the 275 forest fires burning in the area.

The National Geographic reports that “torrential hurricanes, devastating droughts, crippling ice storms and raging heat waves – all are extreme weather phenomena that can claim lives and cause untold damage. Climate change influences severe weather by causing longer droughts and higher temperatures in some regions and more intense deluge in others, say climate experts.”

The Bootleg Fire burns near Bly, Oregon, amid record temperatures and drought (Picture: USDA Forest Service via Getty Images)

Of course, governments have a crucial part to play in combating the causes of climate change, but individuals can also do their bit. Some Swiss scientists reported that humanity could limit its effects if each person used just 2,000 watts of power a year. The average American uses 12,000 and a Bangladeshi 300 which obviously encompasses different factors but is still a useful comparison nonetheless.

One of the main contributions that individuals are being implored to make is carefully considering the way that they travel as they go about their daily business. The cleanest mode of transportation is, of course, walking or cycling as they create no greenhouse gases beyond those produced in making the bike.

This is exactly what lies behind many of the initiatives being introduced by the Edinburgh City Council as it strives to create the conditions that will encourage citizens to walk, cycle or use public transport rather than relying on private cars.

Pedestrianisation of streets, low-traffic neighbourhoods, cycle paths, more efficient buses and the tram extension are all designed to limit the amount of damage we are currently inflicting on the Earth’s atmosphere and should be viewed as such.

Firefighters battle the Bootleg Fire northeast of Klamath Falls, Oregon (Picture: Handout/US Forest Service/AFP via Getty Images)

There will, of course, be conflicting views on the extent and manner of their introduction but the underlying motive is sound and should be lauded.

A huge wildfire raging in Oregon and the development of a city centre cycle lane might be thousands of miles apart – but they are still connected.

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Edinburgh's efforts to promote cycling and walking are partly designed to reduce the carbon emissions that are causing climate change (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

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