As if this year had not seen enough disaster, now the American state of California is on fire.

These fires, reportedly triggered by lightning strikes after a series of highly unusual thunderstorms, have burned a total of just under 600,000 acres (240,000 hectares) and nearly 500 structures in Northern and Central California, killed at least six people and forced tens of thousands from their homes. The hundreds of thousands evacuated now find themselves in evacuation centres during a pandemic which has hit California particularly bad. The situation is a complete catastrophe, with California governor Gavin Newsom calling for international help to fight the blazes, saying that California was ill-equipped to deal with the fires.

California is no stranger to fires—indeed not even a year has passed since the December 2019 wildfires ravaged the state. The 2018 wildfires were the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season ever recorded in California, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres. Why is California prone to such fires and why is the state ill-equipped? The most glaring answer is climate change—California’s climate, with dry summers, leads to the vegetation serving as kindling for fires. With climate change leading to temperatures that are about two to three degrees Fahrenheit warmer now, this dries out vegetation even more, making it more likely to burn. While California has always been a hotbed for fires, the rise in global temperatures makes it more vulnerable with each passing year.

This is not just a California problem—it indicates a larger climate change issue that the entire international community needs to focus on. If carbon emissions continue at this rate, and diplomatic initiatives to counter climate change continue to break down, such disasters will threaten to burn the state down entirely- polluting the air quality, killing wildlife and destroying thousands of trees. This is just as dire as the pandemic and the world needs to discuss long-term solutions for its own survival.