California wildfires a warning for other regions: Governor Brown

A man watches the Thomas Fire in the hills above Carpinteria, California,
A man watches the Thomas Fire in the hills above Carpinteria, California, PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - The governor of California Jerry Brown said on Tuesday wildfires ravaging his state should serve as a warning for other parts of the world threatened by climate change.

"The important fact is that these fires are going to become a very frequent occurrence, that's what the science is telling us," he told AFP on the sidelines of the One Planet Summit, held in the French capital two years to the day after 195 nations signed the Paris Agreement to rein in global warming.

Brown said the blazes were "far more under control" by Tuesday.

"The winds are slowing down... the fires are going to burn another week or two, but they're far more under control than they were a few days ago," he said.

Brown has become a leading climate campaigner in the United States and is seeking to rally other states, city authorities and companies to compensate for the inaction of the federal government under President Donald Trump.

"This is going to affect France, it's going to affect northern Africa, it's going to affect the southwest of the United States, China," he said of the fires.

"It's a real indicator of bad things to come and hopefully will serve to wake up people who right now are too complacent." Fuelled by high winds, wildfires in southern California have charred more than 100,000 hectares of land in the last week, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people and leaving one person dead.

This has been California's deadliest year for wildfires.

Experts say that global warming increases the risk of out-of-control blazes by drying out vegetation, making it more inflammable and easily set alight by lightning, spontaneous combustion, or fires lit by humans.

Brown praised French President Emmanuel Macron's efforts in organising Tuesday's summit, which was called following Trump's announcement in June that he would pull the US out of the Paris Agreement.

"Donald Trump has abdicated and President Macron has stepped up along with the president of China and the leaders of India," Brown said following a day of talks between world leaders, who took a boat trip together to reach the conference centre.

"Yes, there's a lot of talk, there's a big lunch and a boat ride, but on top of that there is serious commitment, there's the building of awareness, there's the mobilising of efforts and imagination," he said.

Brown will host his own international climate summit in San Francisco in September next year.

"I'm going to follow the same playbook," he said.