How the Climate Crisis Will Affect the Nation’s Capital

Our country has overcome many challenges since its foundation – from the civil war to civil rights, there’s no doubt that this nation significantly impacted the course of human history. Now, the country faces one of its biggest challenges yet: climate change.

Residents of Washington, DC are experiencing severe weather events as the climate crisis becomes increasingly disruptive to everyday people. According to the city’s Department of Energy and the Environment, DC has already experienced record-breaking extreme weather events and higher tides caused by rising sea level.

One notable weather event caused by the climate crisis occurred in June 2023, when a smokey haze from the wildfires in Canada clouded the city for several days. People had to wear masks, cancel events, and take precautions to keep from becoming sick due to the air quality. Symbols of our nation’s capital were clouded, leaving an eerie and foreboding message to our country and policymakers on the dangers that await us if we don’t change.

According to an analysis by World Weather Attribution Group, climate change, contributed by the burning of fossil fuels, made the fires 50% more intense. Canada’s usual snowfalls can act as a limiting force for wildfires. But, this year’s higher temperatures led to the rapid thawing and disappearance of snow. A single spark now has a higher chance of turning into a blazing inferno.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center reported that about 45.7 million acres were burned in Canada’s wildfires, passing the previous record of 17.5 million acres. Although many of the fires burned through unpopulated areas, the city of Yellowknife had almost 70% of its population evacuated at one point. The devastation completely overtook Enterprise, a small town in the Northwestern Territories of Canada. 

Back in DC, the air quality index ranked at Code Purple. Parks closed down, some flights had to be grounded, and school systems moved everything in doors. The Washington Capitals called off their baseball game and the National Zoom also closed for the day.

The summer of 2023 gave DC a more concerning look towards rising global temperatures. The wildfire haze became a stark reminder that the climate crisis is not a distant problem but a local and immediate concern. As temperatures continue to climb, hopefully policymakers’ concerns will also intensify before the capital’s fight against the climate crisis becomes unmanageable.