It’s been a couple of weeks since Donald Trump first started sharing his thoughts on California wildfires, which the president has been eager to blame on Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and “bad environmental laws.” None of Trump’s rhetoric made sense.
The Washington Post reported, for example, that the president seemed confused about every relevant detail. CNN added that even some White House officials “admitted to being slightly perplexed” at Trump’s obvious nonsense.
And yet, the president hosted a cabinet meeting yesterday and once again returned to the subject. “We’re spending a fortune in California because of poor maintenance and because, frankly, they’re sending a lot of water out to the Pacific,” Trump claimed, adding, “We’re sending millions and millions of gallons, right out into the Pacific Ocean, of beautiful, clean water coming up from the north – or coming down from the north.”
He still thinks this is about access to water. It still isn’t.
But perhaps you’re thinking the president is more of a big-picture guy, and to get a better sense of the administration’s position, we should shift our focus to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who addressed the issue on Fox Business yesterday. The scandal-plagued cabinet secretary didn’t echo his boss’ focus on water access, but he did address climate change, insisting that the debate is “irrelevant to what’s occurred.” He added, “All you have to do is talk to the [firefighters]” to understand what really matters.
OK; let’s do that.
“We have plenty of water to fight these wildfires, but let’s be clear: It’s our changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires,” said Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director of Cal Fire, the state’s fire agency.
There’s quite a bit of research to back that up. The Washington Post added:
Research shows that human-caused climate change is a primary factor behind the recent increase in fire severity. A 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the heat and drought brought about by climate change was responsible for doubling the amount of land burned in the western United States between 1984 and 2015.
“There is a broad effort to deny the science of climate change and its links to the horrible wildfires in California, and it’s just not accurate,” Leah C. Stokes, professor of environmental and political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara, told The Post. “I don’t think the scale of reducing fuel load is a realistic policy proposal that would magically stop all fires in the western United States. Forests burn, and it is going to get a lot worse unless we do something about climate change.”
This is exactly what the Trump administration chooses not to believe.