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McCain blames illegal immigrants for AZ wildfires — 4 years after saying CA wildfires were ‘symptoms’ of climate change

By Joe Romm on June 21, 2011 at 12:38 pm

"McCain blames illegal immigrants for AZ wildfires — 4 years after saying CA wildfires were ‘symptoms’ of climate change"

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How far John McCain has fallen.  Four years ago, he explained that California wildfires were the kind of extreme events that are “symptoms, of the violent climate conditions that result from climate change.”

Now he’s just another Tea Party extremist:

“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” McCain said Saturday at a press conference. “The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”’

McCain defended his wildly criticized remarks by suggesting the U.S. Forest Service officials told him “there is substantial evidence” supporting his claim.

On NBC’s Today Show this morning, he was baffled about why people are attacking his nonsensical claims:

As TP reported, a Forest Service spokesperson said, “There’s no evidence” that immigrants started the fire.  In fact, one week ago Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell testified in front of the Senate:

“Throughout the country, we’re seeing longer fire seasons, and we’re seeing snowpacks that, on average, are disappearing a little earlier every spring,” he said, as well as devastating droughts. As a result, fire seasons have lengthened by more than 30 days, on average.

Our scientists believe this is due to a change in climate,” said Tidwell.

Before his election loss to Obama and hard shift to the anti-science right, McCain himself not only understood this — but  he actually explained it to voters, as this 2007 video makes clear:

I traveled all around the world, usually at your expense.  And I’ve been to the South Pole, I’ve been to the Artic, I’ve been to the Brazilian rainforest, I’ve been to Greenland. And my friends. I’ve seen with my own eyes.  And uh, I’m not saying that these forest fires that you all are hearing about in California are a direct result of climate change, but I will say to you that we are experiencing weather and conditions such as severe droughts all across the Southwest, such as all the sudden and torrential rains that are symptoms, that are symptoms, of the violent climate conditions that result from climate change.

This change is sad, but not sudden (see “McCain drinks the Kool-Aid [iced tea?] and becomes a climate conspiracy theorist“).

For the record, as meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters explained two weeks ago, whatever the triggering cause was (i.e. “unattended campfires”), this record-setting wildfire season has a pretty straightforward underlying cause:

Extreme to exceptional drought conditions over most of Texas, New Mexico, and Eastern Arizona are largely responsible for the record fire season.

Duh.

Ironically — and tragically — few states are going to be hit harder by the failure to act on climate change than Arizona.  In 2008, McCain himself explained in a major speech at a wind power facility on his cap-and-trade plan:

The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington….

[W]e need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great. The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge.

There are vital measures we can take in the short term, even as we focus on long-term policies to mitigate the effects of global warming. In the years ahead, we are likely to see reduced water supplies, more forest fires than in previous decades, changes in crop production, more heat waves afflicting our cities and a greater intensity in storms.

Here’s the grim wildfire projection from a presentation made by the President’s science adviser Dr. John Holdren in Oslo last year:

Parts of the Arizona face a quadrupling of wildfire annual burn area by mid-century!

This graphic shows what Arizona will look like if we listen to the new McCain.  It’s from a 2010 presentation by climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe  of what staying on the business as usual emissions path (A1FI or 1000 ppm) would mean (derived from the NOAA-led report):

Not a place many folks are going to be living in:

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