Bad Policies Fuel Fires

California burns due to its unwillingness to thin out forests.


"Mother Earth is angry!" says Nancy Pelosi in my newest video.  

"The debate is over around climate change!" says California Governor Gavin Newsom, smirking, strangely. 

They're eager to blame climate change for the wildfires in their state. I'm surprised they didn't say it causes COVID-19, too. 

Newsom, ridiculously, says wildfires are another reason to get more electric cars on the road. I wonder if he even knows that electricity for such cars comes from natural gas.

"This catastrophizing around climate change is just a huge distraction," says environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, author of the new bestseller, Apocalypse Never.

Shellenberger says: "Climate change is real, but it's not the end of the world. It's not our most serious environmental problem."

California warmed 3 degrees over the past 50 years, but that's not the main cause of California's fires, no matter how often politicians and the media say it is.

Why do they keep saying it?

"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail," says Shellenberger. "Every weather event you blame on climate change."

What actually is to blame, as usual, is stupid government policies.

Forests are supposed to burn. If there aren't small fires, debris from dead trees and plants accumulate. That provides fuel for big, deadlier fires, that are more likely to burn out of control.

But for years, governments and environmentalists put out every small fire they could, while also fighting logging.

Megafires could have been avoided if forests had just been better managed. 

An example is Shaver Lake forest, managed by Southern California Edison. The company thinned that forest, creating fire breaks with selective logging. When the wildfires reached Shaver Lake, they diminished into low intensity "surface fire." That protected the bigger, older trees.

Forests in America's west were supposed to burn more often, says Shellenberger. "When Europeans came, they reported California being very smoky and on fire during the summers. And Native Americans burned huge amounts of land."

"So, for the past years, it's been unnaturally un-smoky?" I ask.

"It's what a lot of forest ecosystems require," answers Shellenberger. "We haven't had enough fires for maybe 100 years."

But it's hard to convince governments to allow small fires when politicians demand that every fire be put out, and the media call every fire a disaster.

Recently, wildfire hit the ancient redwoods in Big Basin State Park. Politicians and East Coast environmental reporters worried about the redwoods disappearing. 

But of course, they didn't.

"Redwood trees and other old growth, the bark is very thick, it's fire-resistant," says Shellenberger.

The politicians didn't know that. "They're still standing!" giggled an astonished Newsom after the fire passed.

But "it was exactly what you would expect," says Shellenberger.  "Journalists go, 'Wow. What a surprise! The ancient redwoods didn't burn down!' Nobody's more alienated from the natural environment, and nobody's more apocalyptic than environmental journalists."

Well, maybe politicians.

For years, they and environmentalists increased the risk of big fires by opposing the thinning of forests.

The town of Berry Creek, California, tried to get permits to legally clear their forest. For two years, regulators delayed approval. This year, fire destroyed the town.

Forest Service ecologist Hugh Safford wishes they would "get away from the tree-hugging mentality. It's the classic 'not seeing the forest for the trees.'" 

This year's wildfires finally persuaded politicians to allow more people to cut trees down.

"There's actually widespread agreement on this, says Shellenberger. "The governor of California and President Trump recently signed an agreement to clear much more area. Even the Sierra Club, which opposed the thinning of forests, has now changed its tune."

It's about time.

Politicians and environmentalists, eager to raise money, cite climate change and blame fossil fuels for problem after problem.

While climate change is a problem, Shellenberger points out, "the number of deaths from natural disasters declined 90% over the last hundred years. A small change in temperature is not the difference between normalcy and catastrophe."



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  4. “Nobody’s more alienated from the natural environment, and nobody’s more apocalyptic than environmental journalists.”

    Like science journalists then.
    I read a lot of papers on paleontology and ancient genomics, and the number of basic, lazy mistakes and wrong interpretations in articles covering them is astounding. And this is in magazines like Scientific American and National Geographic, not just some callow AP reporter.

    I couldn’t imagine how wrong they’d be if politics was involved like in environmental journalism.

    1. When you went to collage did you ever speek to a journalist student? They are eighter athletes that need a scholarship to go pro, or the biggest retards on campus. I really pissed one off when after they said they wanted to change the world I told them go invent something, because your job as a journalist is to tell people who weren’t at an event what happened.
      To all journalists, expecially the clowns that refer to themselves as the 5th estate, journalism isn’t a sacred holy profession and the people in that profession aren’t the the great intilects they think they are.

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  5. Americans are generally positive about the way democracy is working in the United States. Yet a majority also says that the “fundamental design and structure” of U.S. government is in need of “significant changes” to make it work today. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say U.S. democracy is working at least somewhat well, and less likely to say government is in need of sweeping changes. Go To Link

  6. It should be easy to test the theory that it’s local politics rather than global warming driving the forest fires – how’s Canada doing on the wildfire front? They’re having a below-average year, one of the lowest number of fires since the 1990’s. It would seem pretty odd that global warming recognizes national borders.

  7. Not only are some trees resistant to fire, they require fire to reseed. Think of what that says about natural conditions and evolutionary adaptation: fires have been frequent enough over millions of years so that trees depend on (and have defenses against) periodic burns. No humans required.

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  10. “The town of Berry Creek, California, tried to get permits to legally clear their forest. For two years, regulators delayed approval. This year, fire destroyed the town.”

    The fire in Berry Creek also killed fifteen people, and some are still missing. I guess they won’t be applying for permits to thin the forest…

  11. Not to mention that a significant number of these fires are the result of arson, and not climate change.

    1. The climate change made the arsonists do it

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  13. I’m pretty sure they have blamed COVID-19 on climate change.

  14. Electric cars are the answer? When the worst fires in the past few years have been started by an electric power utility’s transmission lines?

    1. The cars get their electricity from charging stations, not from transmission lines…

      How about the 1-2 punch of converting everything to solar “because demand is much higher during the day” while also believing that millions of electric cars won’t increase load on the grid “because most people will be charging them at night, when there’s plenty of extra supply due to low demand from industrial uses”.

      If you want to see a brain melt down in real time, force any ideological leftist to take any two of their “fundamental beliefs” and explain how both could be true (or be made to be true) at the same time. It almost doesn’t matter which two, since the fundamentals of the modern left are almost all mutually contradictory in some significant way.

      1. “The cars get their electricity from charging stations, not from transmission lines…”

        No, 95% of their charging is done at home at night via transmission lines.

  15. British Columbia just elected a new leader of the Provincial Green Party. During the acceptance speech the first sentence out of her mouth contained the phrase, “climate fires”. The scary thing is that she believes it, but she suffers from climate-brain which causes a 20 point drop in a person’s IQ.

  16. The two things that everyone seems to need to believe in to get anywhere within the CA Dem Party (aka the CA State Government) are:

    1) Literally everything bad in the world is at its root caused by either Climate Change, “systemic racism/the patriarchy” or both. None of this rules out the possibility that either climate change is the cause of racism or that racism is the cause of climate change (or both are the cause of each other in some kind of mobius ideologiacal knot).

    2) There’s some perfect combination of legislation and sheer belief that can and will define objective reality. Whenever reality conflicts with ideology, the failure is on the part of reality and the physical world is under some kind of obligation to change until it is fully in compliance with their ideology.

    I’m almost a little surprised the State government deployed actual firefighters and equipment rather than simply passing a bill through the state assembly banning all unregulated combustion within the state and expecting the fires to self-extiguish out of respect for the new law.

    1. ” Whenever reality conflicts with ideology, the failure is on the part of reality and the physical world is under some kind of obligation to change until it is fully in compliance with their ideology.”

      The ideology in the article is that we can manage the forests of California. Good lord man, we can’t even manage something as simple as an election, yet Stossel assures us we’re good on forests. Oh, and we can manage climate change too. Pure ideology zero reality.

  17. This morning I searched “climate arson” and got 30 pages of websites declaiming the very thought as nonsense, dangerous, fossil lobbying, propaganda… Every looter outlet wants the Thought Police to strike the expression from the Newspeak Dictionary. Biden of course understood it as sth Boss Trump does. It turns out Red China has huge wildfires where security cams cannot single anyone out for Fahrenheit 451 summary execution. “Agent Ching, your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to take these matches and put the fear of Misanthropic Warmunism into the running dog lackeys of imperialism. As always, the Communist Party will disavow…”

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  20. “None of this makes any sense!” — Politics rarely does these days. It’s all meant to distract you while the [WE] foundation steals your wallet, shoots your dog and rapes your wife of which they’ll call in-order “charity”, “peaceful protests” and “female empowerment”.

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