As the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in California history burned the town of Paradise in November, President Donald Trump attributed the fire to “gross mismanagement” of the state’s forests.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
California Governor Jerry Brown, speaking at a press conference the day after Trump made the remarks, fired back, attributing the state’s wildfires to global warming.
“This is not the new normal,” Brown said. “This is the new abnormal, and this new abnormal will continue certainly in the next 10 to 15 years. We’re going to have to invest more and more in adaptation. It’s not millions. It’s billions and tens and probably hundreds of billions [of dollars].”
Brown also said that “those who deny” man-made climate change are “definitely contributing” to the wildfires.
“Managing the forests in every way we can does not stop climate change, and those who deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies that we’re now witnessing, and will continue to witness in the coming years,” Brown said.
Afterward, Brown was joined by a chorus of mainstream-media pundits, celebrities, and others who agreed that climate change is behind not only wildfires, but many other natural disasters in America and around the world.
“California is vulnerable — not because of poor forest management as DT (our so-called president) would have us think,” wrote rocker Neil Young, one of many celebrities such as actor Gerard Butler and singer Miley Cyrus who lost their Southern California homes to the Woolsey Fire. “As a matter of fact, this is not a forest fire that rages on as I write this. We are vulnerable because of Climate Change; the extreme weather events and our extended drought is part of it. Our temperatures are higher than ever here in our hottest summer on record. California is a paradise for us all. We are sad not to be able to defend it against Mother Nature’s wrath.”
A few days later, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke joined the debate, blaming radical environmentalists for blocking proper management of the forests and causing dangerous conditions that contribute to wildfires.
“When [there is] lawsuit after lawsuit by, yes, the radical environmental groups that would rather burn down the entire forest than cut a single tree or thin the forest, then it’s easy to find who is suing and who promulgates these destructive policies,” Zinke said. “Take a look at who’s suing — every time there’s a thinning project. The density of dead and dying trees is higher. When nature alone takes its course without management, there are consequences.”
The remarks by Trump and Zinke, on one hand, and those by Brown and Young on the other, highlight one of the most contentious debates of the modern world.
This controversy is not only about whether climate change or mismanagement of the forests is the catalyst for wildfires. This debate also involves a colossal battle between globalists and nationalists, a massive indoctrination campaign of youth into the purported virtues of socialism and the dangers of climate change, and whether nations around the planet will ultimately advance toward some form of world government.
“Since the 1960s, the environmental left has had the same solutions regardless of the current environmental scare of the day,” Marc Morano, publisher of the Climate Depot website, a former Republican political aide, and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change, told The New American. “The solution is global governance, central planning, wealth redistribution, and loss of national sovereignty to international bodies. They started this in the late 1960s chiefly with overpopulation — the Paul Ehrlich [author of The Population Bomb] scare, resource scarcity, and other environmental concerns at the time, and always the same solution.”
Global warming is merely the latest environmental scare with the same solution, Morano says.
“In my book, I interviewed Naomi Klein, who has a book called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. They are very open by saying that capitalism is not compatible with a livable climate. ‘We must get rid of this [capitalism]. This has to be overthrown.’ In fact, the latest [United Nations] report featured many climate activists and one of them said, ‘This report makes it clear that we cannot have capitalism any further. It’s destroying the planet.’”
Is Capitalism Destroying the Planet?
This message, now drilled into young people’s heads from kindergarten through college graduation and beyond, has convinced a sizeable proportion of America’s young people, and increasingly older generations, that not only is climate change destroying the planet and their future, but that socialism is the answer.
A recent Gallup poll found that 51 percent of young people now prefer socialism over capitalism — a trend that has accelerated since socialist Bernie Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and, more recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, won the Democratic nomination in New York’s 14th Congressional District.
“[Socialism] has become hip,” Morano says. Climate change and socialism fit “together because the youth are the ones being most severely indoctrinated on climate change. They are basically told that you can’t have single family homes, you can’t have modern appliances unless they’re completely de-neutered of power and regulated, you can’t eat meat, you must limit your plane travel, etc.”
“There are all these limits on modern society in order to essentially pay homage to the planet, and it’s all being dovetailed perfectly with this whole Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez sort-of-in-vogue socialism that capitalism is the enemy, it’s destroying their planet, and that every time there is a hurricane, a flood, a tornado, a fire, that’s because of our economic system. It adds another layer [of ammunition] that they can argue that we must reform our economic system and address climate change. In other words, [the globalists] need the crisis because people wouldn’t otherwise agree to change their ways unless there was this crisis.”
Is Climate Change or Forest Mismanagement Behind the Wildfires?
In the wake of the wildfires in California, along with a series of devastating hurricanes and other natural disasters that have battered the United States in recent years, this debate is going to intensify exponentially in the months and years ahead, especially given the stunning death toll of the Camp Fire in Paradise, about 100 miles north of Sacramento.
As of late November, officials said, the fire had killed 88 people. Since it started on November 8, the fire had destroyed nearly 14,000 homes, over 500 businesses, and more than 4,200 other buildings. The fire had burned more than 153,000 acres, an area about the size of Chicago. And the death toll could grow — significantly. According to the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, 196 people remain missing.
Meanwhile, the Woolsey Fire in Southern California killed three people, burned more than 96,000 acres, and destroyed 1,600 structures before it was contained on Thanksgiving Day.
About a week after their contentious exchange, Trump and Brown toured the devastation in Paradise. When asked about the role of climate change in the fires, Trump said he believed that there were “a lot of factors” involved in the fires, including the “management factor.”
For many years, Brown and environmental groups have claimed that climate change is triggering the wildfires in California, but the temperature has been about the same thus far this century.
“The temperature hasn’t gone up appreciably over the past three decades in California,” says H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow of environmental policy at the Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News. “It may have gone up a degree in Fahrenheit, a half-degree Celsius (since the 1880s globally), but that’s not enough to account for this huge change in wildfire damages since the 1990s. It’s been warmer in the past. Also, the government’s own data, and irrefutable studies, have shown that the world is not becoming more arid. We’re not having less rainfall. We are not having longer and more severe periods of drought, but that’s true for the world as well as California.”
Photo: AP Images
This article appears in the December 24, 2018, issue of The New American. To download the issue and continue reading this story, or to subscribe, click here.
So, what conditions have changed?
“It’s not the temperature and it’s not the aridity of the soil, or the climate, so that can’t be causing these fires, or even be a significant contributing factor,” Burnett says. “By contrast, a lot has changed in the management of forests and lands in California, both in the last three decades, but even longer than that.”
Decades of Dying Forests
For decades after it was established in 1905, the U.S. Forest Service built thousands of miles of roads into the forests, not primarily to suppress forest fires, but to facilitate logging. The Forest Service, after all, is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Trees on national forests were considered crops to be harvested to provide wood for homes and businesses throughout the country,” Burnett says. “But in the 1970s and 80s, they started to change the management of those forests, and following the [President] Reagan years, [the management ideology] really turned over.”
In the 1970s, Congress passed laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act that resulted in time-consuming and cost-prohibitive restrictions and requirements that have made the scientific management of forests nearly impossible.
It was during those years that environmental groups began filing lawsuits to stop clear-cutting, a practice in which most or all trees are cut down, leaving an ecological eyesore and disrupting wildlife habitats such as those of the northern spotted owl — the first in a series of endangered species that became symbols and a cause célèbre for environmentalists.
These groups placed concerted pressure on states and the federal government, along with timber companies, to stop clear-cutting. But once the practice was halted, the environmental groups continued to file lawsuits, ultimately resulting in a new forestry management philosophy to let trees and underbrush grow largely unabated in California and other states.
At the time in the 1980s, the nation was logging about 12 billion board feet of timber annually from national forests. That figure has dropped to less than two billion board feet annually today — an 80-percent decline. In California alone, the number of sawmills dropped from 149 in 1981 to 27 in 2017.
“At the same time, we were actively ripping roads out of the national forests so when a forest fire starts in some remote location, firefighters can no longer get to it readily to stop it before it reaches a populated area because there are no roads there, so you have to use helicopters and airplanes to drop water on it,” Burnett says.
“When forests burn under the policies that were implemented after Reagan — I call them ‘burn, baby, burn’ policies — they let nature take its course. ‘Oh, let nature reclaim itself.’ I’m sorry, nature doesn’t replant trees in soil that’s been burned so hot that it’s sterile. It takes active intervention, and nature doesn’t remove dead and dying timber that has been created by overgrowth.”
Today, many of the national forests are overgrown, with 300 to 900 trees per acre, whereas in the past it was 60 to 90 trees per acre. So when insect infestations occur, the bugs easily hop from tree to tree and wipe out entire forests, leaving dead and dying timber to dry out and turn into a veritable tinder box. Then when lightning strikes, someone gets careless with a camp fire, or a power line sparks, a nearly unstoppable inferno erupts because the forest has not been logged in decades, it’s full of combustible undergrowth and dying trees, and most of the roads to get into the area have been ripped out in the name of letting “nature take its course.”
“The wildfire crisis facing our forests across the West comes down to a simple adage,” U.S. Representative Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said last year in a speech entitled “We Are Running Out of Forests to Save.” “Excess timber comes out of the forest one way or the other. It is either carried out, or it burns out. But it comes out.”
After 45 years of experience with these environmental laws — all passed with the promise they would improve the forest environment — McClintock said the public is entitled to ask, “How is the forest environment doing?”
“All around us, the answer is damning,” he said. “These laws have not only failed to improve our forest environment — they are literally killing our forests.”
One of the most common refrains people hear about the causes of the wildfires is “that old dependable, climate change,” McClintock said.
“Let’s put that to the smell test. Throughout our vast forests, it is often very easy to visually identify the property lines between well-managed private forests and the neglected federal lands — I’ve seen it myself on aerial inspections. The managed forests are green, healthy and thriving. The neglected federal forests are densely overcrowded and often scarred by fire because we can’t even salvage the fire-killed timber while it still has value. How clever of the climate to know exactly what the boundary between private and government lands is!”
At an oversight hearing called “Seeking Better Management of America’s Overgrown, Fire-Prone National Forests” before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources last year, Steve Brink, vice president of public resources at the California Forestry Association, testified that the national forests in California are “in trouble.”
“The 8.8 million acres of productive forest land on these forests are grossly overly dense; recently experienced 5-plus years of drought; experience wildfires that on average burn 322,000 acres per year; and now are experiencing a major insect and disease epidemic that has killed trees on 4.5 million acres,” Brink testified. “About 2 million of the 4.5 million acres affected [by insect and disease epidemics] on the national forests are up to 85 percent dead.”
Brown Vetoes Bill to Reduce Wildfire Risks
Despite these and many other warnings about the dire state of the national forests, Brown and environmental groups have adamantly opposed most plans to mitigate wildfire risks.
In 2016, Brown vetoed a critical wildfire safety bill, even though it was unanimously approved by both houses of the California Legislature, that would have better safeguarded fire-prone communities in the state. The bill, SB 1463, sponsored by California State Senator John Moorlach, a Costa Mesa Republican, was aimed at reducing wildfire risks from power lines and utility equipment that have become the focus of the cause of the recent wildfires in California. The bill was designed to address wildfires caused by sparking electrical lines. The bill would have given local governments a larger role to play in putting together fire risk maps with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency. The bill would have required the CPUC to work with utilities to mitigate fire risks near utility equipment, including putting transmission lines underground.
“It was a simple bill,” Moorlach told The New American. “You know, a wildfire that runs for two-and-a-half days creates about the same amount of greenhouse gases as all the cars driving in California for a year, so we figured this was a no-brainer for the governor. He would not only take care of a wildfire issue, but he would also reduce greenhouse gases, which is his religion. And so, I still, to this point, don’t know why he vetoed it. It would have been easy for him to sign it.”
Considering the staggering death toll in the Camp and Woolsey fires and that the investigation is centered around sparking electrical lines, Moorlach says it’s been “heartrending” to know the bill was vetoed in 2016.
“The goal was to prevent this from occurring,” Moorlach says. “The minute [Brown] walked into the governor’s house he should have said, ‘Let’s fix this because it’s causing fires and it would reduce wildfires and it would reduce greenhouse gases. This is a high priority.’ Instead, in his veto message, he just said those two agencies [CPUC and CalFire] were already working on it — nothing to see here, move along. And, so he sent the wrong managerial response.”
“He should have said, ‘Get moving on this,’ because now in hindsight it’s tragic what occurred not only in the [recent] fires, but last year the [Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, Napa, and Lake counties] was caused by the same electrical problem of not having hardened the poles and the transmitters, and 44 people died there.”
What Is the Trump Administration Doing?
Given this situation, the Trump administration is working to address the dire state of our national forests, but the administration is often blocked by environmental groups, Burnett says.
The Trump administration “has tried to alter the way the forests are managed, but every time it proposes new rules, new forest plans, the environmentalists take them to court and tie things up,” Burnett says. “It’s only been two years. There is not a lot they’ve been able to do. These problems took decades to create. It will take a full term or more than a full term, a second term, or even longer, to reverse this.
“The U.S. Forest Service said fully 60 percent of our nation’s forests are at abnormal fire risk. The [forests] are hazardous conditions, so even if you went back to the kind of logging that was done under Reagan, and that’s not going to happen overnight, you would still take years to substantially reduce the risk of those fires. You must rebuild roads that were ripped out. That doesn’t happen overnight. But what we can do is start that way so these kinds of [wildfires] don’t continue and get worse in the future.”
Morano says his criticism of the Trump administration is that it hasn’t pushed back hard enough on the so-called science of the climate-change narrative.
“The only guy who did was [former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator] Scott Pruitt who was basically forced out by the media and sadly the administration let him go at the EPA,” Morano says. “They need a science czar who is going to push back on all of this and they are not doing that so what is happening here is that the electorate is uninformed.”
“Now we’re going into the next election, and if the next president is a Democrat, everything President Trump has done can be undone in two years of the next Democrat’s turn. We could be back in the Paris climate agreement, back with the EPA regulations, so my biggest complaint here is that the public needs to be educated, the public needs to be aware, and I don’t know that we’re getting that right now because the media is cracking down [on any dissenters in their ranks], and Republicans are still essentially running scared of the science.”
Climate Change, “Hoodwinking,” and the Plot for World Government
The day after Thanksgiving, as the Camp Fire was nearing containment, the White House released the 1,500-page Fourth National Climate Assessment report, finding that the “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities.”
The report noted that extreme weather disasters “have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration and have cost the U.S. nearly $400 billion since 2015.” The report claimed that “extreme weather and climate-related events” are going to worsen in the years to come.
In response, Trump said, “I don’t believe it,” reiterating his response on a recent episode of 60 Minutes.
In recent years, federal government agencies, the United Nations, and various environmental groups have released countless reports citing the current and future catastrophic consequences of climate change.
Yet a close investigation of the “evidence” cited by the “multibillion dollar ‘climate change’ complex” reveals a different picture, Morano says, referring to his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change (Regnery Publishing, 2018).
“The gist of it is that not only is there not a climate crisis, you can’t even detect so-called man-made climate change from natural variability, whether it’s the temperature, the polar bear population, extreme weather, a sea-level rise, and I go into great depth in the book,” Morano says. “I use peer-reviewed studies, scientists and data. Even the United Nations admits that extreme weather, for instance specifically in California, and global droughts have been in decline. California has had much worse droughts in previous centuries.
“In other words, when CO2, carbon dioxide, was lower in the atmosphere, droughts were worse. It’s the same with fires, by the way. Now fires are probably the worst metric of climate change because there are so many different factors involved. It’s not just drought, but also land use, forest policy, development, water resource management, etc. But if you are to use just straight wildfires, we’ve had much worse wildfires in the first part of the 20th century.”
In terms of rising temperatures, NASA’s claim that at least 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists think that “climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely caused by human activities” is actually based on a survey of 77 anonymous scientists, Morano says.
“So, I go through all the hoodwinking, I go through the agenda of climate change, which the agenda is very clear: It’s the United Nations actually seeking global governance on one hand, but also admitting that they are going to be redistributing wealth by climate policy,” Morano says. “In the words of Al Gore in October, the UN has ‘torqued up’ their reports for climate action. We all know that the United Nations put themselves in charge of this issue in 1988 with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and if they fail to find a climate crisis, they’ve failed to have a reason to exist and go to all these exotic locations for conferences. I’m going to Poland in two weeks for the next UN Climate Summit.”
Meanwhile, the youth of the world, and much of the population, have bought into this “hoodwinking” and are now conforming their lives and worldviews around this narrative, believing they’re helping to save the planet.
An October poll conducted by Stanford University, ABC News, and Resources for the Future found public awareness of global warming is widespread and support for action is broad, with eight in 10 Americans saying the federal government should try to achieve the same deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions called for in the Paris climate change treaty that Trump rejected. A Monmouth University poll released in November found 64 percent of Republicans believe in climate change, up from 49 percent in 2015.
“They are sweeping up young people, using [climate change] to turn them against the economic system,” Morano says. “They openly admit that even if we face the crisis [of climate change] their solutions would have no detectable impact, but they are so important anyway because we must act, and as John Kerry says, we need an insurance policy in case the climate skeptics are wrong.”
“Well, I don’t know what insurance policy anyone would buy on their home if the policy costs more than the home if it burned down. That’s what they’re selling us. It’s a false argument, but the thing is they’re doing well.”
Photo: AP Images
Troy Anderson is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, best-selling FaithWords/Hachette author of The Babylon Code and Trumpocalypse, former executive editor of Charisma magazine, and a Los Angeles Daily News reporter.