Devine: Mismanagement, stubbornness have set California ablaze
By Miranda Devine, Opinion, New York Post
October 30, 2019
It’s not climate change that has set California on fire, as Gov. Gavin Newsom claims.
It’s human mismanagement and green obstinacy.
Locking up forests and preventing tree clearing and the systematic fuel reduction required in any prudent management of nature has been a disaster in a state that is “built to burn.”
Now that the cataclysm predicted by world forestry and fire experts has come to pass, the culprits are blaming climate change.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. They warn of cataclysmic climate change if we don’t suddenly remove the cheap, fossil-fueled energy on which this nation’s economic prosperity was founded.
Then they work against any sensible management of California’s forests that would reduce the severity of routine regular wildfires.
Then, when the wildfires become record-breaking conflagrations, they point and say, “See, I told you so.”
They’re like arsonists admiring their handiwork from afar.
But in this era of climate alarm, they are winning the argument.
When President Trump and then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pointed out the green culpability in California’s conflagrations last year, they were roundly condemned.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump tweeted last year.
Zinke went even further: When “we try to thin forests of dead and dying timber, or we try to sustainably harvest timber from dense and fire-prone areas, we are attacked with frivolous litigation from radical environmentalists who would rather see forests and communities burn than see a logger in the woods.”
For his forthright approach, Zinke became green enemy No. 1, before he was bundled out of office this year in a stitched-up scandal over charter planes.
But there was a similar, although more diplomatic message from the bipartisan Little Hoover Commission in a report last year condemning California’s forest mismanagement. It said that plans for prescribed burning “to rid the forests of dense ground cover often clash with regional air-quality regulations … Finally, familiar old divisions between the timber industry and environmentalists hinder policy goals to thin overgrown forests to their original conditions.”
Stephen Pyne, one of the world’s most eminent bushfire historians, and emeritus professor at Arizona State University, says we’ve reached the limit of the “fire suppression model” where the best and bravest firefighters use the mightiest equipment to extinguish fires.
This aggressive fire suppression has made matters worse, leaving forests overgrown and plagued by dangerous fuel loads.
“It’s not enough of the right kind of burning.”
Regular systematic prescribed burning to remove ground fuel, as Native Americans used to do, is one partial solution, as is “hardening the houses on the front line” so they can withstand embers, and spending money on burying underground the power lines that spark so many fires.
There’s also the problem of air quality in the smog trap of the Los Angeles basin, which has led to draconian measures to eliminate air pollution.
Add the vocal opposition of urbanites to breathing in smoke, and authorities have shied away over the years from conducting the sort of prescribed burns needed to reduce dangerous fuel loads.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown famously vetoed a bipartisan wildfire management bill in 2016 that would have mandated “prescribed burns,” claiming the work already was being done.
But clearly whatever he was doing didn’t work.
Newsom, after eight years as Brown’s sidekick, now blames “dog-eat-dog capitalism meeting climate change.” He is trying to scapegoat Pacific Gas and Electric, the nation’s largest private utility, which has cut power to 1.5 million Californians this week in a series of pre-emptive blackouts to prevent its equipment igniting more fires, and ward off the lawsuits that have bankrupted it.
But, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board has pointed out, the bungling and money-wasting at PG&E was largely driven by leftist policies of the Brown-Newsom regime. The Democratic political strategy was to use the company to advance their climate agenda, including laws mandating that 60 percent of electricity come from renewables by 2030.
The upshot is that Californians paid an average 19.86 cents per kilowatt-hour for their electricity in August 2019, which is 50 percent more than the national average.
All that money spent on satisfying climate ideologues has created the conditions that have turned off the lights in the world’s fifth-largest economy.
Ironically, the wildfires are now spewing an unprecedented amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
So much for saving the planet.
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