A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon



Sep 10, 2018

Stoking the Flames: Climate Change driving the West’s Devastating Wildfires

Anthropogenic climate change contributed to California’s record-breaking wildfires. The future of fighting these fires grows increasingly perilous.


The Outdoor Journal

The California wildfires of 2018 have seared themselves into the public conscience due to their alarming scale and destructivity. If you are one of the 50,000 ordered to evacuate your home, you know the severity of the infernos. If you are one of the millions of Mountain West residents concerned by the smoky atmospheric haze in your skies for the past month, you can appreciate the fires’ far-reaching impact. If you have followed the flurry of statements from the front lines and finger-pointing officials, you have seen a prominent fact emerge from the smoke: these fires and their effects were made worse by our warming climate.

One misconception about climate change is that it solely causes warmer temperatures. This oversimplifies the situation; global warming due to human activity results in a thinning protective atmosphere and increased solar radiation. The consequences of this heightened solar radiation manifest in myriad extremes such as floodings, drought, heat waves, and more frequent catastrophic weather anomalies. Research published by the National Academy of Sciences suggests that climate change may also increase lightning strike frequency and generate high winds.

According to the 2016 research report, these factors, driven by our carbon-burning habit, are ideal for perpetuating and sustaining large fires.

California’s 2018 wildfire season was the volatile climax of an intensifying narrative of climate change factors. These factors form the backbone of this story. Abnormally heavy winter rains in 2016 and 2017 led to an explosion of plant growth, increasing the fuel load for a sustained flame. In the spring and summer of 2017, earlier springtime melt-off and intense heat dried out the surplus plant material. Come July of 2018, conditions were ripe for the monster Mendocino Complex Fire and several others to torch 600,000 acres, destroy over a thousand homes, and claim at least eight lives. Of the protracted fight to contain and extinguish these flames, president of firefighter union Cal Fire Local 2881 Cliff Allen remarked that “The new normal is we are busier than we’ve ever been”. And further destabilization is likely. According to director of CU Boulder’s Earth Lab Jennifer Balch, computer models forecasting future climate patterns reveal an increased risk of drought and heat waves and delayed fire-quenching autumnal precipitation. Gone are the days of predictable fire seasons and reliable natural limitations on the size and intensity of these blazes.

The “new normal” of California wildfire season is reflected in the numbers. In 2017, wildfires burned a reported 234,000 acres across the state. 2018’s wildfire season blazes on into its historically worst months, and 613,000 acres have already gone up in smoke. To put these figures in perspective, the five-year average from 2013-2018 is just 158,000 incinerated acres. Massive, destructive wildfires, exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change, are California’s new reality. The closer we align firefighting efforts with emerging climate research, the better we can protect vulnerable communities and save lives.

Cover Photo: A helicopter silhouetted by smoke from the Mendocino Complex Fire near Ukiah, CA. By Bob Dass, taken July 27, 2017.

This editorial opinion was written by The Outdoor Journal’s Kela Fetters.

Resources and further reading:

Jennifer Balch’s research summary, A thorough wildfire study by CIRES, A Washington Post special and an editorial board opinion piece, The New Yorker, San Francisco Chronicle, A National Academy of Sciences fire study

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Oct 20, 2019

Introducing Climate Neutral Certified

A little over a year ago, I co-founded an organization called Climate Neutral. The intent of this organization is to create, distribute, and certify a label that we call Climate Neutral Certified. 



Peter Dering

The Outdoor Journal supports the Climate Neutral initiative. However, our editorial team was not involved in the writing, editing or fact-checking of this article. The author of this article is Peter Dering, CEO Peak Design + Co-Founder Climate Neutral.

You’re probably familiar with other labels like 1% For The Planet, Certified Organic, and Certified B-Corp. These labels tell us something about the products we buy or the business we support. When you see the Climate Neutral Certified label on a product, it means that the business displaying it has measured their carbon footprint, reduced what they reasonably can, and then offset the rest. In a world where climate change exists and is a legitimate threat to our children’s way of life, we strongly believe that this should be the minimum standard for all companies. We should stop emitting carbon without paying the cost to clean it up.

Peak Design sews backpacks in Vietnam and ships them all over the world. Sure…we use recycled materials, we’re conscientious about our packaging, we make products that last, and we try to avoid air freight. But the fact is, no matter how intensively you focus on reducing your footprint, it persists. The notion that we can reduce our way out of our carbon problem is a farce.

The incredible thing is that we can still take responsibility for that carbon. We can measure it (approximately). After we’ve reduced it (reasonably), we can offset it. That’s right. We can offset it.

Climate Neutral Co-Founder, Peter Dering speaking with Alex Honnold at Outdoor Retailer.

“isn’t this the least we can do?”

It is possible for Peak Design to create carbon emissions across the globe, yet sequester an equivalent amount by some other means. Means such as planting and maintaining a field of seagrass off the coast of Puerto Rico. Or by covering a decommissioned landfill in South Carolina. Or subsidizing wind farms in India, which lessens the coal generation necessary to power that country. There are all sorts of ways that Peak Design, and every company in the world (and every individual, for that matter), can truly and verifiably offset our carbon impact. And if this climate change thing as real as all those scientists are saying…isn’t this the least we can do?

That’s what I thought. I especially thought this when at the end of 2017, Peak Design measured its carbon footprint and found we were responsible for about 20,000 tons (we rounded up significantly). The crazy thing is that it cost us only $60,000 to offset that entire carbon footprint, and that was on $30m worth of sales. It very loudly begged the question…. ”why isn’t everyone doing this?”

You can support Climate Neutral’s Kickstarter campaign here.

Climate Neutral Certified is the result of asking that question and realizing that most people and companies have no idea how large their carbon footprint is, and have even less of an idea about how much it might cost to eradicate it.

This is our effort to make everyone aware that they can do something about their impact, and it has been all-consuming. Prior to the launch of this campaign, 50 businesses have signed up. And a 175 more are lying in wait. We want to get thousands of businesses to sign up during the course of this campaign, and it will take individuals spreading the word to make this happen.

“I wish there was something I could do about climate change.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have supported Peak Design through Kickstarter or as a customer over the last 9 years, and I am grateful for that. I would be even more grateful if you visit the Climate Neutral kickstarter page, and support this campaign. This is a solution that has the potential to scale big enough to actually make a dent in this seemingly intractable problem. If you’re anything like me, you’re tired of wringing your hands and saying “I wish there was something I could do about climate change.” Back this campaign, and you will be doing something about it.

I am grateful for the opportunity to help alleviate climate change, and I am grateful to all of you for the support you have ushered in over the years. That support is the reason I have this opportunity. I will do all I can to make the most of it.

You can support Climate Neutral’s Kickstarter campaign here.

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