After U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke over the weekend outrageously and falsely declared that the largest wildfires in the history of California have "nothing to do with climate change," it was up to people who actually understand the science—and give a shit about the future of the planet—to set him straight.
No, Secretary Zinke. The record-breaking wildfires in California have everything to do with climate change. We must confront the reality that climate change is already destroying tens of thousands of lives, and take concrete steps to avoid its worst consequences. https://t.co/qSfahHcbeS
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 13, 2018
Last week, as Common Dreams reported, Zinke went to the pages of USA TODAY to blame the wildfires ravaging California and elsewhere on so-called "radicial environmentalists" who are somehow preventing forest management – an argument he repeated over the weekend while visiting destroyed areas in California. Of course, as real and not-at-all-radical environmentalists pointed out, what ZInke is really saying is that he wants to give the nation's forests over to the timber industry for clear-cutting, consequences and destruction of natural habitat be damned.
As California Burns, @SecretaryZinke Buries his Head in the Sand. Ignoring science, forestry experts, and common sense, Zinke tells reporters the West’s fires have “nothing to do with climate change.”https://t.co/joanFpMSrI pic.twitter.com/u7SSb8mXKO
— Western Priorities (@WstrnPriorities) August 13, 2018
Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, explained to The Hill thatZinke is just straight up wrong about the clear role that warming temperatures—now increasingly driven by human-caused global warming—are playing in creating larger and more powerful wildfires.
"Climate change creates drought, high wind conditions, low humidity. Fire creates its own weather," Spivak said. "You can thin all you want till the cows come home but fire will overtake that ... what is misleading is people like Zinke and other people who refuse to talk about climate change and how we need to tackle that."
And as Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and staff writer for Grist, wrote on Monday regarding Zinke's weekend comments in California and ongoing fires in Montana's Glacier National Park, "This summer has felt like a global warming turning point." But in the end, he said, it does matter what people like Zinke and President Trump say about the cause and the solution.
“It doesn’t matter whether you believe or don’t believe in climate change. What is important is we manage our forests.”
Yes, Zinke, it *does* matter if you believe in climate change.
It’s happening. All around us. Right now.https://t.co/8ZnIWWel4S
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) August 14, 2018
The current best-practice for reducing fire risk is cutting down smaller trees and underbrush, but that’s expensive and time-consuming — the kind of work that logging companies aren’t interested in. Even that approach, however, can reduce forests' ability to adapt to climate change. There's no easy answer," says Holthaus.
"And yes, Zinke, it does matter if you believe in climate change," he concluded. "The only thing that will save forests and glaciers as we know them is ending our dependence on fossil fuels as quickly as possible. But we're at the point where we know irreversible change is already locked in. That's a scary reality, but instead of driving us to despair, it should motivate us to strive to save what we still can."