Wildfires Caused By Bad Environmental Policy Are Causing California Forests To Be Net CO2 Emitters

  • Date: 26/02/19
  • Chuck DeVore, Watts Up With That

This is California’s big secret: it’s not climate change that’s burning up the forests, killing people, and destroying hundreds of homes; it’s decades of environmental mismanagement that has created a tinderbox of unharvested timber, dead trees, and thick underbrush.

In the past two years, wildfires scorched 2.9 million acres in California, including five of the state’s 20 deadliest fires killing 131 people.

Former California Gov. Jerry Brown grimly warned that because of man-made climate change, these destructive wildfires are the “new abnormal” that threaten “our whole way of life.”

Newly elected Gov. Gavin Newsom’s rhetoric has been more balanced.

As with Brown before him, Newsom blames climate change for the fires, saying during the campaign last September that,

“The science is clear — increased fire threat due to climate change is becoming a fact of life in our state. Drier, longer summers combined with unpredictable wet winters have created dangerous fire conditions.”

Claiming that climate change causes wildfires naturally leads to a demand for action, with Newsom promising an aggressive progressive pushback against the Trump Administration’s effort to cut red tape regarding vehicle mileage standards, power plant carbon dioxide emissions, and oil and gas extraction.

That’s politics. Governing often dictates practicality. Here Newsom appears set to do more to combat wildfires than the tentative half-measures signed into law by Brown. Newsom is calling for improved wildfire surveillance and warning systems, better urban planning, and helping property owners clear brush.

Regarding reducing the fuel load, in an interview four months ago, Newsom said that there are “Hundreds of millions of dead trees” in the state and that it cost his father $35,000 to clear “a small little patch of dead trees” on his property.

Newsom didn’t admit it, but the outrageous cost to remove a few dead trees from private land is a consequence of California’s Byzantine environmental regulatory patchwork.

This is California’s big secret: it’s not climate change that’s burning up the forests, killing people, and destroying hundreds of homes; it’s decades of environmental mismanagement that has created a tinderbox of unharvested timber, dead trees, and thick underbrush.

This dangerous situation attracted attention from President Donald Trump who, during the height of California’s wildfires last year insistedthat “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.”

The irony is that forest management is so bad on public lands that a new report, ordered by the California legislature in 2010, shows that the [portion] of California’s National Forests protected from timber harvesting is now a net contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide due to fires and trees killed by insects and disease.

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