As what happens every day that ends in “y”, President Donald Trump tweeted some outlandish things over the weekend. Not only did he decide to tweet his rage against LeBron James and the media, but he also tweeted his rage against the State of California. This time, Trump registered his disapproval with California’s handling of the wildfires burning across the state. And typical Trump, he didn’t bother to check the actual science before posting any of his rage-tweets.
Lucky for him (or is it?), we’re here to fact-check Trump’s tweet and examine the real facts behind California’s wildfires.
Why is so much of California on fire? And does the blaze stop there?
For years, scientists have been warning us of the dangers of unchecked climate change. One of those dangers are wildfires that become more intense due to hotter temperatures and lack of precipitation. Climate change may not be responsible for every wildfire, but it has definitely become a key contributing factor for the heavier and more perilous wildfire seasons that are gradually becoming more common in the Golden State and throughout the American West.
And yes, it’s not just California at risk. As drought and extreme heat become more common here in Nevada, we’re also at greater risk for worsening wildfires. It’s happened here before, and it will likely strike us again up north and down south.
So what did Trump tweet, and why does it matter?
On Sunday Donald Trump tweeted, “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized.” He continued, “It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear stop fire spreading!”
There’s a problem with Trump’s tweet: It’s not fact-based. Contrary to his claim, environmental laws have nothing to do with firefighters’ water resources. If anything, Central Valley agricultural interests have been diverting water that would otherwise flow in natural streams towards the coast (and the ecosystems that depend on water). And when it comes to preventing wildfires from becoming blazing super-storms, experts have identified far more effective and sustainable methods than his rather convenient “solution” of opening protected public lands to commercial logging.
And then, of course, there’s the one thing Trump did not mention in his tweet: climate change. Neither water diversion nor commercial logging addresses the issue of the hotter and drier conditions that fuel these fires. And instead of offering any kind of real assistance to California, Trump instead aims to sabotage the state’s climate action efforts by threatening to revoke the fuel economy regulatory authority that the federal government has typically respected since 1970. This is on top of Trump’s overall efforts to not just stymie climate action, but even deny the reality of climate science.
What might do more good than an angry tweet? How about actual science-based policies?
Let’s review the facts at hand: California and the rest of the west suffer from more extreme wildfires. These wildfires have likely become more extreme due to climate change. Donald Trump continues to deny the science of climate change, and he’s now seeking to deny California the power to take its own action on climate change. Instead, Trump proposes more commercial logging and water diversion as “solutions” that don’t really solve any of the problems associated with the wildfires.
What am I missing here? And perhaps more importantly, what is Trump missing? For one, he’s missed the opportunity to provide some real help to the communities being ravaged by these wildfires. And as long as Trump continues to rage-tweet complete and utter nonsense, he’s missing the opportunity to develop any kind of sound public policy based on real facts.
Cover photo by David S. Roberts, licensed under Creative Commons, and made available by Wikimedia.