Two years ago, an actual headline from CBS in Sacramento was, “Donald Trump Tells California ‘There Is No Drought’ As Drought Continues.”
And now, on Sunday evening, Trump’s denial of reality in California continued, as he attempted to blame the ever-worsening wildfires in the state on everything but climate change.
“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized,” the President tweeted. “It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!”
The tweet came just hours after the Trump administration declared the California wildfires a major disaster.
Trump’s Sunday evening tweet was soon followed-up with a second, similar tweet on Monday. In it, the president said: “Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water – Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.”
For its part, Cal Fire said it had “no idea” what Trump’s tweets were referring to. “We have plenty of water for the firefight,” they said in response. And a spokesperson for Gov Jerry Brown (D-CA) said “This doesn’t merit a response.”
Experts, however, immediately mocked Trump’s explanation — and his refusal to acknowledge that climate change is a major driver in worsening wildfires.
Wildfire expert Prof. Eric Kennedy tweeted that Trump’s tweet was “comedically ill-informed” adding “it’s near impossible to overstate how ridiculous this comment is.”
California climate and water expert Peter Gleick tweeted that Trump’s explanation was “gobbledygook bullshit” and “unmitigated crap.”
In a tweet directed at the President, he explained that “California’s forests are burning because of past severe drought and current extreme temperatures and weather, worsened by human-caused climate change, which you think, in your fantasy world, doesn’t exist.”
“On the water side, it boggles the mind,” as LeRoy Westerling, a leading expert on wildfires and climate change, told the San Francisco Chronicle. The UC Merced professor explained, “We do manage all of our rivers in California, and all the water is allocated many times over. So I’m not sure what he was recommending.”
Westerling added, “Even if we eliminated all habitat for riparian species and fish, and allowed saltwater intrusion into the delta and set up a sprinkler system over the state, that wouldn’t compensate for greater moisture loss from climate change.”
An alternate tweet for Trump was offered by Westerling: “Ongoing warming and accelerated climate change are driving unpredictable increases and extreme fire in California across a wide range of ecosystems.”
Meanwhile John Upton, a journalist at Climate Central, tweeted, “Clearing forests is not a fire solution. Wildfires would be safer if overgrowth was removed. That’s most effectively done through controlled burns, which requires funding.”
And climatologist Michael Mann tweeted in reply, “Hey Mr. Trump: These wildfires are being magnified by human-caused climate change. You are attempting to sabotage international efforts to ACT on climate change. That’s a crime against the planet. Add it to the list…”
Mann told ThinkProgress in an email that if denial of climate science continues to drive Trump’s policies then the “legacy of his administration will be, among other things, a charred planet.”
Back in November, however, Trump’s own White House signed off on the actual science behind increasing wildfires: the National Climate Assessment. As the report states, it is the “authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, with a focus on the United States.”
The peer-reviewed assessment by scientists from 13 federal agencies warns of the great danger posed by so-called “compound events” which are “multiple types of extreme events that can occur simultaneously” in a region, such as widespread drought.
“Another compound event frequently discussed in the literature is the increase in wildfire risk resulting from the combined effects of high precipitation variability (wet seasons followed by dry), elevated temperature, and low humidity,” the scientists warn. “If followed by heavy rain, wildfires can in turn increase the risk of landslides and erosion.”
But there’s yet another danger from massive wildfires: “They can also radically increase emissions of greenhouse gases, as demonstrated by the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the Fort McMurray fires of May 2016 — more than 10% of Canada’s annual emissions.”
So Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the reality of climate change and the need to take action means we face ever worsening wildfires, which in turn means more carbon dioxide emissions and even faster climate change.
This article was updated to include more information on the president’s tweets.