Lorax Lesson Unlearned: The GOP Wildfire Strategy Will Destroy Our Great Western Forests

I testified last Friday at a House hearing on the ever-growing crisis of bark beetles, drought, and wildfires. The full C-Span video is here.

My written testimony is here. I decided to practice what I preach in my forthcoming book and use the figures of speech to make my points in the oral testimony (which you can see here, with transcript).

Congressman Ed Markey, a man who understands the figures, especially metaphors, had a great chart on the explosion of players hitting more than 40 home runs during the steroid era. He and I talk about that chart in the clip below.

I also discussed the GOP strategy of dealing with our Western wild fires and droughts and bark beetles solely through thinning, while reject climate science and climate solutions. Apparently, the GOP missed the day in school when they read the Lorax (see “The Lorax Speaks For The Trees — Get Over It Conservatives“).

Here’s the video (and a partial transcript follows):

Joe Romm: We know that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels traps heat. We know they call them greenhouse gasses for a reason. They didn’t, you know, make up the term ‘greenhouse gasses’ because the gasses don’t act like a green house, they do. And if there were no greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, the planet would be 60 degrees Fahrenheit colder and there would be no civilization as we know it.

I’d just like to make a point, I’ve learned a great deal at this hearing, I’m not an expert on short-term forest management, I’m kind of an expert on the medium and long-term. There’s no question that trees compete for water and there’s no question that drought is a big problem for trees — and it also exacerbates the bark beetle problem because trees kill bark beetle by releasing sap. But I’ve now heard this theory that the solution to the drought problem is that we thin forests so that trees don’t compete so much.

The problem is that we’re on a track where your districts are going to see levels of soil moisture in the coming decades that are worse than the Dust Bowl, which was a minus-3 on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which means that you’re going to thin, there’s going to be more drought and wildfire and some other congressmen from your district will come in 20 years and say ‘we gotta thin some more.’ And then 20 years after that, we’ll thin until there is nothing left. The thinning to deal with drought is not a sustainable solution; it’s the end of all trees in all of your districts. And as someone who has skied in your district [Rep. Tipton (R-CO)] and lived in your district, and hiked in your district, I must say, I love your district.

Representative Ed Markey: Mr. Romm, I thank you. And in the same way we knew that the utility infielders  and substitute outfielders who went from 13 home runs to 50 home runs, somehow that we knew they weren’t Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays and something must be wrong and that the extra weight lifting that they were doing wasn’t making them Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. I think most people know that there’s something wrong and we are contributing to it and as soon as we admit it, I think, and I mean the beef industry and every other industry I think, we’ll get to the heart of the solutions we have to put in place. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Where’s the Lorax when we need him?

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7 Responses to Lorax Lesson Unlearned: The GOP Wildfire Strategy Will Destroy Our Great Western Forests

  1. I think a serious piece this puzzle can be found in a paper I just discovered, written by a woman named Gail Zawacki. It’s titled PILLAGE, PLUNDER & POLLUTE, LLC (A Global Glut of Invisible Trace Gases is Destroying Life on Earth). It can be found as a 138 page PDF file here:

    Zawacki’s basic premise is that tropospheric (low level) ozone produced by fossil fuel combustion interferes with the ability of many plants to fix carbon, thereby making global warming worse in a way few now suspect. In effect she claims we have put the forests of the world on “pack-a-day” habit for the past century. While trees are hardy and long lived, this poisoning is slowly killing them and in the process dumping yet more carbon into the sky! Obviously if Ms. Zawacki is right, the implications are ominous. Here are two links for more information:



  2. Mike Roddy says:

    There is no scientific support for the notion that thinning does anything about reducing fire danger:

    This belongs in the collection of lies that includes clean coal, natural gas, and ethanol. When the science comes out, nothing changes, since the corporations own Washington.

    Here’s another stat: After a forest fire, 80% of the carbon remains onsite, partly as productive charcoal soil amendments. When you log a forest, 80% of the site carbon goes into the atmosphere. This is the opposite of intuition and common sense, but is what the science says on the subject.

    Not that this matters these days in Washington.

  3. Brian R Smith says:

    Ken Burns’ latest, “The Dust Bowl”, airs November 18 & 19. Official site:

    Can’t find anything indicating he will reference current Dustbowlification, although a Times-Picayune article quotes him as saying: “We quickly discovered, however, a much more complex, tragic, and interesting story that continues to resonate today.”

    Too late in the election cycle. Still, it’s an event that could be leveraged in a dozen ways by climate messengers in the days before it airs – and serve as a solid platform for discussion in the days following. For PBS viewers, at least. Great piggyback opportunity.

    How ’bout Joe Romm & Ken Burns comparing notes on Charlie Rose, say a week after airing?! Seriously.

    Re:the hearing… I love the way Markey let’s his cosmic humor about the absurdity of the GOP position come through. He is genuinely amused with having to make a show of reducing the reality to 3rd grade terms the Rebubs can understand, knowing that most of them are faking their reticence for twisted ideological purposes. Oh what a tangled web we weave….

    Thank you Joe for pulling no punches.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You’ve got to hand it to the Right. They are the same everywhere, although the Anglosphere does seem to possess the ultimate dregs. The combination of stupidity, ignorance, arrogance and sheer misanthropic viciousness is a certain formula for catastrophe. They get everything wrong, in the most egregious manner. We can spent our species’ twilight years contemplating the wretched question-how in the name of the Unspeakable did the decent fraction of humanity allow the evil nut-jobs to take over?

  5. Leif says:

    I am thinking we should be using the suns focused energy to produce bio-char as well as capturing the volatile gas for use. It is going to take a lot of man power, think jobs, to back humanity out of the morass we have built and are preparing to pass on to future generations.

  6. M Tucker says:

    Republican’s don’t read. The truth interferes with their fantasy. They make shit up all the time (Inhofe is making money on made up shit). They discovered that no one except the left cares about their lies. Most do not pay attention, especially the Republican voters, to reality. They make shit up about: the economy, supposed international threats, jobs, health care, national defense, and every major and minor issue that is important to our nation. They make shit up about their party icon Reagan. They never check the facts. All the lies are taken as fact by their base and the so called independents seem to only pay attention for about one month just before elections that come around every two years. Republican politicians have discovered there is no down side to lying and actually protecting the American public from real threats to their lives and property has no bearing on how the Republican electorate vote.

    So it doesn’t matter to Republicans, politicians or electorate, how much forest burns, how many homes are destroyed, how many people die, or if the water runs out. It doesn’t matter which states are devastated. None of it matters. This may change in the future but my experience with talking with the Republican voters is that fantasy trumps reality and the Republican fantasy peddlers are loved by their constituents. BTW, I live in the land of Issa so I know quite a few of these fantasy lovers.

  7. Jay Alt says:

    I watched your testimony and that of others, nice job. Ed Markey is a national treasure.
    What surprised me more than anything were the repeated, single-minded and laughable claims by GOP witnesses that the drought is bad because of – i) insufficient of timber cutting ii) not enough grazing iii) enforcing land use rules, not kow-towing to local special interests. iv) small size of fuel ‘treatments.’

    I was encouraged that several of those witnesses took copies of your article.