California wildfires released one year's worth of power pollution

California wildfires released one year's worth of power pollution

Forest fires in California this year released carbon emissions equivalent to the amount produced to power the state's electricity for one year, according to a new analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The wildfires, including last month's record-breaking fires in Northern and Southern California, released 68 million tons of carbon dioxide as they incinerated huge swaths of land and destroyed thousands of homes. That is roughly the same amount of carbon emissions typically produced to power the entire state for a year, according to a statement from the Interior Department on Friday.

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"We know that wildfires can be deadly and cost billions of dollars, but this analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey also shows just how bad catastrophic fires are for the environment and for the public's health," Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkePuerto Rican police fire tear gas at crowds protesting governor Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade Trump officials gut DC staff as public lands agency preps to move out West MORE said in the statement.

The carbon emissions from the wildfires accounted for 15 percent of all California emissions, the statement noted.

November's wildfires, which included the deadliest and most destructive fires in the state's history, released 5.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.

In the statement, Zinke echoed President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE in saying the wildfires could be mainly attributed to improper forest management.

Fire officials and lawmakers in California have vehemently pushed against this assessment, saying forest management is one of a number of issues that could have caused the wildfires. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) last month said the wildfires, which killed at least 91 people, were likely connected to the intensifying effects of climate change. 

Brown called the wildfires part of California's "new abnormal."

Zinke's statement comes as he continues to cast doubt on a new dire federal climate change report, which warns that the devastating effects of climate change will slash the U.S. economy and harm peoples' day-to-day lives if leaders at all levels do not take stronger action immediately. Zinke has questioned the methods used by the 300 government and nongovernment scientists who contributed to the report, which was authorized by 13 federal agencies.

The report predicts that wildfires will continue to grow larger, more costly and more deadly as temperatures rise and the climate becomes drier due to human-caused climate change.