From the Right: Climate Change: Real or a Cop Out?


By Don Schmitz

Politicians are adept at making excuses for their craven policies and actions, with the latest panacea being “climate change” for devastating wildfires destroying nature, communities, and precious lives. It conveniently absolves mayors and governors of responsibility, being a global problem so overwhelming that they are victims too, an effective deflection especially if they have been espousing draconian efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. 

But dig deeper. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green blamed the devastation and deaths in Maui on climate change, with Democrats in D.C. immediately echoing the mantra, and calling on President Biden to declare a “climate emergency” (Never let a good crisis go to waste, right?). Yet Clay Trauerncht, University of Hawaii professor and environmental management expert, stated “Blaming this on weather and climate is misleading. Hawaii’s fire problem is due to the vast areas of unmanaged, nonnative grasslands from decades of declining agriculture.” 

The fire was started by sparking utility lines, common in regions that fail to upgrade their grid. Four years ago, Hawaiian Electric asked for $189 million to “protect against wildfires and downed power lines,” warning, “the risk of a utility system causing a wildfire ignition is significant.” The state only granted 1 percent of their request — horribly irresponsible — while the state diverted tens of millions of dollars to meet their goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. 

During the fire, cars were turned back into Lahaina and the teeth of the fire by a police barricade on Highway 30. Children were sent to empty homes when the power went out and their parents were away, dying a horrible death alone. Authorities didn’t utilize the extensive siren system to alert residents to flee. Gov. Josh Green acknowledged failures, but immediately pivoted to “amplification” from climate change. Criminal malfeasance isn’t the problem, dear voters, it’s the huge challenge of global warming gases from capitalism. Don’t blame us!

Hawaii is just the latest, with California being pummeled worse than ever with apocalyptic wildfires charring 4.3 million acres in 2020 alone, destroying entire communities, and immolating innocent victims. Predictably, Gov. Gavin Newsom blamed climate change stating that anyone who thinks differently is in denial. You didn’t expect him to accept responsibility nor blame his political base with environmental groups for stopping all forest thinning and fire breaks did you? He had previously cut in half the acreage treated in 2020 according to Cal Fire. To his credit though he pushed for over $1 billion for statewide fuel breaks and forest thinning in 2021, recognizing the obvious: We must work on the ground to protect our communities. 

Naysayers and radical environmentalists assert such efforts don’t work, but the beleaguered firefighters say otherwise, as do numerous studies. A great case study is the Fort Apache Reservation and Apache-Sitgeaves National Forest in Arizona. The sovereign tribe, unfettered by environmentalist litigation and lumbering forest service bureaucracies, selectively logged large trees with private companies, thinned young trees, and prescribed burned underbrush replicating the natural status, according to tribal forest manager Jonathan Brooks. 

In 2011, the Wallow Fire was the biggest in Arizona history, burning 538,049 acres. The federal forest, improperly managed, was charred with an intense crown fire, but the fire calmed on adjacent tribal lands, going to the ground and stopped with backfires. In California, we have suppressed fires for a century, and several decades ago we stopped most logging, even of tree stands killed by drought and beetles. California forests are now 80 percent to 600 percent denser than 150 years ago according to a 2020 UC Davis study. 

Still, some environmentalists fight and litigate every effort to thin fuel loads, even as we watch unnaturally hot fires consume our wildlands and communities with them, both of which will take decades to recover. Forest managers warned us decades ago this would happen, but we loved our wildlands to death, and now blame climate change for what we wrought. 

Worse yet, according to a UCLA study the California fires in 2020 released 127 million tons of greenhouse gases, erasing all 16 years of state greenhouse gas emission cuts from 2003-19. Billions in investments, decades of work and sacrifice, are wasted, as we watched Paradise burn, communities utterly destroyed, and priceless lives lost. Some communities like Laguna Beach are now acting, creating permanent fire breaks and undergrounding utilities. Other areas, like the multi-jurisdictional Santa Monica Mountains have abandoned the historical network of firebreaks, have an antiquated water system, and prescribed burns are almost nonexistent. 

Yes, climate change can make fires worse, but our unenlightened wildland management exacerbates them far more, and climate change doesn’t absolve leaders of responsibility for their poor decisions. So next time you watch a group of politicians standing in front of the smoking ruins of a community with the devastated environment in the background absolving themselves by blaming climate change, know the truth, and hold them accountable.