Politics of Wildfires

There have been forest fires for as long as there have been forests. Prior to the past few hundred years, they were primarily caused by lightning and volcanos or on rare occasions by spontaneous combustion of organic materials, accumulating on the ground. Native American tribes used to employ controlled burns to clear out underbrush and encouraged new plant growth, but since that ancient tradition has been eliminated the major causes have become out-of-control house fires, traffic accidents, arson, occasional dry-lightning storms, and other things mostly out of our direct control.

The number of fires is on the rise, as would be expected as the population increases and as homes move deeper into forest lands. But wait – the climate is also changing – were the Romans right to conclude “post hoc, ergo propter hoc”? I don’t think so. Wildfires in California and Oregon during the 2020 fire season gave rise to another dimension to the Climate Change discussion. Both State’s Governors instantly proclaimed the severity of the fires to be a direct result of Climate Change, leaving politicians, journalists, and “Climate Scientists” rejoicing in the streets; and “Real Scientists” breathless at the dishonesty of their would-be colleagues. One recent article introduced the term, “vapor pressure deficit” to describe what you and I would call “relative humidity”. Apparently the author had taken a physics class in high school and became fascinated with how things burn faster on days with low humidity.

Saying the words “wildfire” and “Climate Change” in the same sentence seems to produce a certain melodic cadence that congers up a pseudo connection – just the saying of it is where the connection ends. There is absolutely no credible evidence that the 1.0 degree F [i]Google “global temp” to get any number you like. This one is as good as any. increase in average global temperature in the past 140 years has any affect what-so-ever on wildfires. The very idea that a change, undetectable by the most sensitive of human fingers, touching the forest floor, causes or worsens forest fires is a fairytale that would have put Hans Christian Anderson to shame. Nonetheless, politicians say it on TV and would-be intelligent Americans listen.

The following paragraphs summarize a few things we know about wildfires, along with some things we know about Climate Change and a lot of things we have yet to learn about the latter.

In addition to common sense having no standing with our Governors, we are constantly bombarded by bogus claims like this one from an organization called, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Inc.. [ii] https://www.c2es.org/content/wildfires-and-climate-change/ “Climate change causes forest fuels (the organic matter that burns and spreads wildfire) to be more dry, and has doubled the number of large fires between 1984 and 2015 in the western United States”.

That kind of irresponsible rhetoric sells well to unsuspecting consumers who are too busy with life to inquire about the sources of the information, but one need look no farther than this organization’s website and Annual report to understand.

Two-thirds of their “Grants and contracts” come with Donor Restrictions, and 100% of their funding comes from donors whose anonymity is guaranteed –
(a) From the “Values” section; “… no climate justice without social justice. C2ES is committed to creating and growing a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion within our organization and among the stakeholders we collaborate with”,
(b) From the Annual report;  “We will consider granting anonymity to individual donors who request it.”

Simply stated that means –
(a) “We will believe your scientific data only if you support Black Lives Matter, and
(b) if you give us money we will promote the conclusions you are already committed to and not tell anyone who you are”.

This is only one of dozens – if not hundreds – of “Climate Science” organizations, dedicated to a proposition where facts don’t matter and something like superstition [iii](a) belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance
(b) an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God
(c) a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary
takes over because the political agenda is too overpowering.

Plenty of references are available online from “Real Scientists” questioning the popular temperature numbers, and the silliness of the conclusions drawn from them, like this one from Darwin Australia. This particular author, objecting to purposeful distortion of the numbers, is one of countless independent thinkers, whose voices are drowned out by the limitless funding of the opposition. 

So What Next ?

For those of us who live in rural areas, there is real concern about wildfires and generally less regard for “fake” anything – particularly science. No amount of human effort is going to have a measurable effect on Climate Change and if it did, it wouldn’t help prevent forest fires anyway. But there is plenty that can be done to minimize the costly effects of forest fires.

    • Some short-term common sense measures
      • Use zoning to discourage developments near forests
      • Incorporate fire-resistant designs and materials in buildings
      • Increase space between structures
      • Enforce regulations already in place
      • Remove fuels from forests
          • Underbrush
          • Dead and dying trees
          • Selectively log overgrown government land
      • Develop recovery plans before fire hits
      • Replace bureaucrats on Public Utility Commissions
          • with businessmen and businesswomen
          • require successful private-sector experience
          • specifically, prohibit public-sector experience
      • Give Utilities and Fire Departments
        • funding needed to maintain infrastructure
        • equipment and staff needed to respond quickly

 

A productive longer-term strategic effort would be to allocate certain areas of State and Federal forest land to remain “natural” – no logging or forest management of any kind, and no people allowed. Bambi and the Chipmunks could live happily in the underbrush and fallen trees, and people could look on from a distance. Periodic “natural” fires would destroy these areas but it only takes a hundred years or so to regrow. I remember, returning from a skiing trip in the 1980s and being rerouted by fire that destroyed this canyon. Forty years later it is well on its way to recovery.

Meanwhile, other areas allowing homes and businesses could be properly managed, eliminating the fire threat.

I seem to recall from high school Civics class that these are the kinds of things that governments are supposed to do. What I don’t remember is the “social justice” and “climate justice” part.

By: Jim
Written: January 2021
Published: May 2021
Revised:
footnotes
footnotes
i Google “global temp” to get any number you like. This one is as good as any.
ii https://www.c2es.org/content/wildfires-and-climate-change/
iii (a) belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance
(b) an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God
(c) a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary