The New York Times)
The president, either willfully ignorant or playing to his base, tweets nonsense about the California wildfires and refuses to acknowledge the role of climate change in the disaster.
Aug. 8, 2018
By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
What’s really alarming about President Trump’s preposterous tweets about the California wildfires is not what he gets wrong, which is plenty, but what they say about his stubborn refusal to grasp the basics of climate change and, perhaps worse, his and his administration’s contempt for the science that is drawing an ever-tighter link between a warming globe and extreme weather events around the world.
Sunday night, Mr. Trump, in his first comments on the wildfires that have raged for weeks, said the fires had been “made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount[s] of readily available water to be properly utilized.” A second tweet, on Monday, complained that water needed for fighting the fires was being “diverted into the Pacific Ocean.” In neither tweet was there mention of lives lost, the nearly 600,000 acres of woodland so far consumed and the 1,100 and counting homes destroyed.
Dumbfounded state officials dismissed the president’s remarks as nonsense. Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director of Cal Fire, the state’s fire agency, said that “we have plenty of water to fight these wildfires.” The most generous interpretation of Mr. Trump’s remarks was that he had been confused by complaints from California Republicans that state law, which seeks to allocate water among farmers, urban users and the environment, had unfairly favored fish over farmers. But even if that were true, which it is not, this ancient dispute has nothing to do with the availability of water for firefighting, which comes largely from lakes and ponds.
Mr. Berlant made one other comment. “Let’s be clear,” he said, “it’s our changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires.” Here, too, he was very much on point. Numerous studies that have sought to weigh the effects of climate change on the environment by teasing them out from other factors have concluded that human-influenced warming is increasingly a major player in a range of natural disasters. An authoritative paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2016 looked specifically at forest fires in the Western United States and concluded that rising temperatures linked to climate change had been heavily responsible for the greatly increased range of these fires, mainly by intensifying droughts.
for the Opinion Today newsletter.