Last night, CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck blamed California’s massive wildfires on the “damn environmentalists” and their “bad environmental policies.” He also claimed that global warming has nothing to do with the situation, stating, “[I]f I hear global warming one more time, blood is going to shoot out of my eyes.”
To prove his points, he brought on R.J. Smith of the Exxon-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute and Chris Horner, author of the Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism. Horner — who is also a senior fellow at CEI — predictably argued that “[g]lobal warming is not a likely suspect” for the fires and Smith said that “the greens have made things worse by stopping all [fuels] management.” Watch it:
In 2002, Bush proposed HFI, which advocated “thinning” forests to decrease the risk of wildfires. But more than anything else, it was an attempt to curry favor with the timber and logging industries, which donated more than $1 million to Bush’s 2000 campaign. HFI allowed loggers to cut down large, valuable trees miles from at-risk communities, allegedly in order to finance the removal of the smaller brush that fuels wildfires.
Environmentalists don’t oppose removing brush and chapparal in at-risk areas, but logging in backforests has nothing to do with wildfire prevention. Removing brush is not a solution in itself. A 2006 study by Prof. A.L. Westerling, et al. concludes that addressing global warming needs to go hand-in-hand:
[L]arge increases in wildfire driven by increased temperatures and earlier spring snowmelts in forests where land-use history had little impact on fire risks indicates that ecological restoration and fuels management alone will not be sufficient to reverse current wildfire trends.
Earlier this year, the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC wrote that “a warming climate encourages wildfires through a longer summer period that dries fuels, promoting easier ignition and faster spread.” Los Angeles went 150 days without measurable rainfall this past year, and such drought will likely get worse. A group of leading British climate scientists found that extreme drought will affect about a third of the planet and spread across half of the earth’s land surface by 2100 because of global warming.
The Center for American Progress’s Daniel J. Weiss has more about global warming’s effects on wildfires.
UPDATE: Michael Roston at Huffington Post points out that in June, government auditors warned the Bush administration about shortcomings in its firefighting plan.
BECK: But first, for the second consecutive day, wildfires are sweeping through California, especially beach front cities like Malibu and San Diego. And I want to get one thing straight right from the start. Loss of life, property, tragic. The people who are fighting these fires, heroes.
But I got to tell you, the story just pisses me off. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Wildfire may be a natural disaster, but you’ve got to stop kidding yourself, America and pretending that man isn’t partly to blame for making things worse.
I remember spending my summers at my grandfather’s house at his farm. I can still see him screaming at that old Zenith TV that we had in the living room, yelling about how the mismanagement of our forests is going to get people killed one day.
You ask any farmer, anybody who’s lived closely with the land, and they’ll tell you, you can’t change Mother Nature. We’re the ones screwing things up. Why does this global warming phenomenon only seem to happen in our part of the globe? Why have we — why have we tried for decades to stop the natural cycle of burn and regrowth? And most importantly, why do we think that we can continue to believe that man knows best, when every bit of evidence tells us it ain’t true?
Mother Nature is tough enough. We don’t need to make matters worse with our bad environmental policies.
Chris Horner is the author of “Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism.” And R.J. Smith is an adjunct environmental analyst with the competitive Enterprise Institute.
Let me — let me start with you, R.J. How much money do you get from big oil?
R.J. SMITH, ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I don`t think big oil has anything to do with — with the forest fires.
SMITH: And — and I’m not sure. I mean — environmentalists get big oil money themselves, too.
BECK: Look, here’s the thing. We’re going to talk about things that are politically incorrect. Nobody else on television is going to say this. And I know all the bloggers are right now going, “Oh, big oil, big oil, big oil. They’re going to deny global warming.”
I’m not denying global warming. But, Chris, let me ask you this. I keep hearing that this is global warming that’s doing this. And I keep thinking to myself, how many years have we let the underbrush grow, and nobody will do anything? If the super fires are caused by global warming, wouldn’t these super fires be happening all around the globe? Are they, or are they not?
CHRIS HORNER, AUTHOR, “POLITICALLY INCORRECT GUIDE TO GLOBAL WARMING”: Well, fire happens everywhere. And it is a natural disaster if man’s there. Otherwise it’s a disaster purely for nature, but again, it is natural.
Global warming is not a likely suspect for the following reason. The warming that the alarmists are talking about is one degree Fahrenheit over the past 150 years, most of which occurred before World War II. None of which are occurred in the last decade.
OK. We can reliably take global warming off the suspect list.
Second, it’s not clear that a warmer world would be a drier world. As you know, Glenn, they rely on computer models to scare us. The computer models disagree with each other.
The two that the United States used for an Al Gore-produced report as they left office said the Red River Valley was going to be a flood plain or a desert. So, you know, prepare for it.
BECK: OK. So, R.J., let me — help me out. Because if I hear the — if I hear global warming one more time, blood is going to shoot out of my eyes.
SMITH: It has little, if anything, to do with global warming, Glenn. What happens — I mean, you’re right from what you’ve learned in Washington state. […]
BECK: R.J., true or false, that they actually — the environmentalists, the same ones that going to tell me it’s my fault because I have an SUV, these same damn environmentalists are the ones that have stopped people in California from clearing brush on their own property.
SMITH: Precisely. First, the feds made things bad with 100 years of mismanagement and then, starting around 1975, 1980, into there, the greens made things worse by stopping all management. No management.
And they said fire was natural and it was natural regulation and let it burn, particularly in the national parks. And you saw what happened in Yellowstone, the great experiment. It burned down half the park. That’s their big success story, and they love that. I mean, their chief biologist out there was chanting “Burn, baby, burn,” as the fire roared through his study plots.
One of the Audubon Society board members who teaches children for the Audubon Society said the biggest disaster of the Yellowstone fires was that they did not destroy the town of West Yellowstone, which is the entrance to the park, because it was all ticky-tacky and neon cluttered and it should have been reduced to ashes.
That’s the philosophy of the greens.