Catastrophe and the “Climate Change” Culprit

 

California Governor Jerry Brown seized the opportunity last month to blame Climate Change for the “new normal” of rampant wildfires. With neighborhoods burning down and the fire inching closer to homes, Government and Science declared that a bogeyman of myopic mass humanity was at fault.

The Governor’s reaction is noteworthy for its bizarrely cultish tone. In fact, we know with certainty the specific individuals responsible for many of these horrible fires:

  • The Skirball Fire that threatened Bel-Air and the Getty Museum a few weeks ago was ignited by an illegal cooking fire at a homeless encampment.
  • The Cedar Fire of 2003 (what had been the largest wildfire in California history before this year’s Thomas Fire) was caused by a hunter lost in the woods who used a fire to try to signal rescuers.
  • In 2009, a man illegally using a weed whacker around hot, dry brush started the Jesusita Fire, which destroyed almost 100 homes.

Even NPR reports that humans cause 84 percent of wildfires. Yet elected officials do not use the bully pulpit (let alone legislation) to try to curb such persistent recklessness if not intentional arson. It makes us queasy, it seems, to admit that an individual could be responsible for such damage.

With Climate Change instead as the popular scapegoat, elected officials avoid pressing questions, such as the prudence of their tactical response, whether they invest inadequate resources to prevent and fight wildfires, or whether their forest management policies are reasonable.

California has a history of chaotic, even incompetent, wildfire responses, as in the 2003 Cedar Fire (which prompted a state investigation after destroying over 2,200 homes). The chairman of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s investigation of that fire concluded that “many lessons from similar past tragedies have gone unlearned…. Vegetation and fuel management, habitat preservation and environmental protection have often conflicted with sound fire safe planning….”

Fire experts have long encouraged “prescribed burning” to minimize vegetation growth and, in the long run, reduce smoke pollution otherwise caused by out-of-control wildfires. Not surprisingly, however, environmental policies treat prescribed burn smoke as an “avoidable nuisance” subject to heavy regulation. The Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and other regulations impose onerous limits on our ability to prevent massive wildfires.

Even as we celebrate our valiant firemen, it is also legitimate to question whether our firefighting resources are effectively coordinated and whether triage decisions are made appropriately. Over the last month, a few friends sheepishly whispered in private, wondering why insufficient air resources were deployed over some fires while others received repeated rounds of tankers. They asked why the Skirball Fire (adjacent to swanky Bel-Air) somehow was quelled immediately in difficult terrain while the Thomas Fire (begun in rustic Ojai) became unstoppable in all directions. With Climate Change as the predetermined culprit, the media and an intimidated public pursue none of these questions.

California’s 2003-04 wildfire commission found that “[u]nless and until public policymakers at all levels of government muster the political will to put the protection of life and property ahead of competing political agendas, these tragedies are certain to repeat.” Unfortunately, in the interim, a new political agenda — Climate Change, the mother of all political agendas — has hijacked any chance at progress. The “new normal” in our California communities is the utterly inane sentiment that we can barely do anything to prevent cities from being destroyed by wildfires unless President Trump re-enters the Paris Agreement.

At this point, we may ask whether modern politics is really “modern.” What had been a system of administration designed to marshal man’s rational thinking to provide security for life and property is now dominated by doctrinal intimidation and groupthink. Even if we assume (and I do not) that manmade actions gradually increase average temperatures, decrease relative humidities, cause drought, and promote Santa Ana wind events, we ought to have the sense to distinguish it from many other more immediately treatable causes.

Governor Brown and his ilk have become so primitive that they might as well be proposing a state policy of rain dances. Dazzled by our technologies and mystified by persistent catastrophes, we appear to be exhausted. Self-government is feckless and tired, as it bounces between views that humanity is the source of all good and the source of all evil. It is possible that — just maybe! — welcoming Christianity back into society could return us to an era of rational government, in which man’s theories are tempered by a knowledge that while we cannot control everything, we can control some things.

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  1. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    Great facts in this post, Louis. But what Californians really need are memes.

    Seriously, great post.

    • #1
  2. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Louis Beckett: Governor Brown and his ilk have become so primitive that they might as well be proposing a state policy of rain dances. Dazzled by our technologies and mystified by persistent catastrophes, we appear to be exhausted. Self-government is feckless and tired, as it bounces between views that humanity is the source of all good and the source of all evil. It is possible that — just maybe! — welcoming Christianity back into society could return us to an era of rational government, in which man’s theories are tempered by a knowledge that while we cannot control everything, we can control some things.

    Absolutely outstanding stuff here.  Fantastic post.  Thanks so much for taking the time to write this.

    • #2
  3. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Louis Beckett: With Climate Change as the predetermined culprit, the media and an intimidated public pursue none of these questions.

    You see this same tendency in other areas of liberal dogma, too.

    • #3
  4. harrisventures Coolidge
    harrisventures
    @harrisventures

    Louis Beckett: It is possible that — just maybe! — welcoming Christianity back into society could return us to an era of rational government, in which man’s theories are tempered by a knowledge that while we cannot control everything, we can control some things.

    That’s just crazy talk there…

    What would Gaia say? And what about Global Warming? or Climate Change?

    What about the endangered snail darter?

    So many questions…

    What we really need is fast rail between LA and San Francisco. That’ll fix it.

    • #4
  5. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    The ideas expressed are pertinent and important, but the piece struck me as well because it is beautifully written. There’s fire in your pen!

    • #5
  6. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Louis,

    California represents a microcosm of everything that is wrong. Brown and his cabal of California lefties have spent endless hours conniving to obtain a fabulously expensive bullet train that will do Californians little real good. The hyper-regulatory environmental laws have caused disasters in the price of electricity and damaged one the worlds great agricultural areas. Moonbeam continues the policy of ever-increasing salary/benefits/retirement for government workers.

    All of the incredibly expensive and fundamentally useless policies noted above are a product of a left-wing ideological groupthink that is so thick in California nothing can stop it. Meanwhile, a real endemic need of California is enhanced wildfire fighting capability. California regularly experiences extremely dry conditions with very high winds. These are the perfect generators of dangerous wildfires. The response should be obvious and simple. Massively increase State investment in wildfire fighting capabilities. As expensive as this might be, it is incredibly less expensive than bullet trains or the next round of ridiculously over-generous retirement packages for banal bureaucrats.

    Brown’s never-ending reign of ideological groupthink prevents him from properly addressing wildfires. One wonders whether California, the richest state in the nation, will finally confront bankruptcy. Other than this, I’m not sure what could knock some sense into the California groupthink chaos.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #6
  7. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    To be fair, California has been in a very long drought, major flooding in the world (including US), uptick in powerful coastal storms (one forming now), record heatwaves – the fires are tragic, but I do think climate change is real – except that it isn’t all man-made.

    I don’t like that everyone has to be in the either / or camp. We have cleaner air, water and new energy resources and choices than we’ve ever had.  The polluters like China, India etc. will never comply to the universal standards being applied these days.

    It’s a good idea to be conservative in not wasting, littering, poisoning and polluting, just taking care of the earth – but it’s common sense, not a religion. You can’t stop Mother Nature. They just want to have another way to collect taxes and fines.

    • #7
  8. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    James Gawron (View Comment):
     One wonders whether California, the richest state in the nation, will finally confront bankruptcy. Other than this, I’m not sure what could knock some sense into the California groupthink chaos.

     

    Neither California nor any other liberal state will be allowed to go bankrupt.  States like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois or Michigan will prevent it because they are on the same path.

    • #8
  9. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Louis Beckett: Governor Brown and his ilk have become so primitive that they might as well be proposing a state policy of rain dances. Dazzled by our technologies and mystified by persistent catastrophes, we appear to be exhausted. Self-government is feckless and tired, as it bounces between views that humanity is the source of all good and the source of all evil. It is possible that — just maybe! — welcoming Christianity back into society could return us to an era of rational government, in which man’s theories are tempered by a knowledge that while we cannot control everything, we can control some things.

    Absolutely outstanding stuff here. Fantastic post. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this.

    I’m sorry, the OP’s conclusion is just as risible as Brown’s attempt to shuck off responsibility onto a fashionable but unproven climatology theory.  There are obvious steps to be taken – James Gawron outlines some of them above – and the essay points to some others: controlled burns and other fuel removal, managing the urban-wildland interface.  But the punchline might as well read “a miracle happens” or invoke the underpants gnomes, given the likelihood of any such in California.

    (30 year CA resident, who got the heck out four years ago.)

    • #9
  10. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    I wrote a little bit about similar fires in the Pacific Northwest a few months ago. California’s troubles have similar culprits: poor state and federal land management coupled with an environmental movement that refuses to allow anyone to do what needs be done. California has additional problems as its bureaucracy is even more out of control and corrupt, and has struggled with water supply because they’ve destroyed the reservoirs created by dams because dams aren’t “natural”. It’s a basket case of a state. Blaming wildfires on Climate Change just makes it easy to avoid responsibility.

    Many of the Left in the west believe in Man-Made Climate Change. Back when the Oregon/Washington fires were rampant my left-leaning friends from my home state were smugly reporting how right they were about Climate Change because see? Wildfires! Everything is dry because of Climate Change! This argument ignored the long history of mismanagement in public lands.

    • #10
  11. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Endless lawsuits are the norm and decisions are made in a courtroom by judges that have never seen, or walked on the land involved in litigation. Both private, and federal lands are caught in a tug of war between competing environmental advocacy groups.

    Clink on the link for the story about the Canyon Creek Fire in Oregon.

    Beyond the missteps last summer, the Canyon Creek fire highlights the inability of the Forest Service to manage dueling missions of firefighting and forest management. It’s a national problem that has smoldered for decades and left millions of people and their properties exposed to risk.

    Blame decades of fire suppression, selective harvesting of big and more fire-resistant trees and environmental push back that subsequently limited logging. Together, they’ve created a system of national forests littered with dead and downed trees, dried needles and low branches. Conditions are acute in eastern and southwest Oregon, where historically fire-adapted forests have been turned into overstocked tinderboxes.

     

    • #11
  12. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    Endless lawsuits are the norm and decisions are made in a courtroom by judges that have never seen, or walked on the land involved in litigation. Both private, and federal lands are caught in a tug of war between competing environmental advocacy groups.

    Doug,

    Isn’t this a job for a chief executive to open up on and provide leadership. What if Governor Moonbeam had not wasted an opportunity with banal bloviating about “Climate Change” and directly pushed against the problem. Announcing a huge increase in spending for wildfire fighting capability and a direct indictment of federal policy on forest management.

    As Governor of California who could blame him if he made the speech I’m suggesting. As Governor of California who could not blame him for making the speech that he did make.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #12
  13. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    To be fair, California has been in a very long drought, major flooding in the world (including US), uptick in powerful coastal storms (one forming now), record heatwaves – the fires are tragic, but I do think climate change is real – except that it isn’t all man-made.

    I don’t like that everyone has to be in the either / or camp. We have cleaner air, water and new energy resources and choices than we’ve ever had. The polluters like China, India etc. will never comply to the universal standards being applied these days.

    It’s a good idea to be conservative in not wasting, littering, poisoning and polluting, just taking care of the earth – but it’s common sense, not a religion. You can’t stop Mother Nature. They just want to have another way to collect taxes and fines.

    Absolutely agree FSC. Clean air, clean water, recycle trash, improving energy efficiency…these are all good things. And these are things that can be accomplished without reducing advanced countries to third world poverty. I just have a really difficult time accepting the CO2 scam. I have too much faith in the natural order to believe that our very existence as humans is a detriment to our planet. All mammals exhale CO2. All plants “breathe” in CO2. It’s a wonderful balance. One day we will discover an infinite energy source. Until then God has given us carbon based fuel. Those of us who have been able to use it and distribute it are better off for it.

    • #13
  14. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Climate change, global warming, it’s all a racket.

    • #14
  15. James Golden Inactive
    James Golden
    @JGolden

    The truth of the matter is that we’ve had a very dry winter here in SoCal with Santa Ana winds a regular occurrence.  That is the proximate cause of the fires, even if specific human activities are the “but for” cause of some of the fires.  This has nothing to do with man-made global warming, a theory yet-to-be-proven and that is at serious risk of being discredited.  It is simply an uncommon but not rare weather pattern, and the same one bringing the “polar vortex” and the cold weather to the East Coast.

    I don’t believe we truly understand why some winters are different than others.  Especially in Southern California, where the difference between a wet winter with flooding rains and a dry drought year is just a difference in 3 or 4 storms.  Some might blame the current weak La Nina, but the last La Nina in 2011 brought heavy snows to California.  In addition, the last El Nino in 2015-2016 failed to bring heavy rain to Southern California — that did not happen until the 2016-2017 winter.

    In short, we have much to learn.

    • #15
  16. JamesAtkins Member
    JamesAtkins
    @JamesAtkins

    Please pray for those of us caught behind enemy lines.

    • #16
  17. Louis Beckett Contributor
    Louis Beckett
    @LouisBeckett

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):
    I wrote a little bit about similar fires in the Pacific Northwest a few months ago.

    Thanks for your excellent post!  Yes, we should get to choose between the massive air pollution and environmental damage caused by out-of-control wildfires and the relatively mitigated results of forest management strategies.  Unfortunately, we’re veering away from even that conversation as we blame Climate Change.

    • #17
  18. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    JamesAtkins (View Comment):
    Please pray for those of us caught behind enemy lines.

    If the Oregon Trail were restarted today, traffic would flow the opposite direction.

    • #18
  19. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    JamesAtkins (View Comment):
    Please pray for those of us caught behind enemy lines.

    If the Oregon Trail were restarted today, traffic would flow the opposite direction.

    It is – check the in-bound vs. out-bound truck rental and moving van stats that show up periodically.

    • #19
  20. Louis Beckett Contributor
    Louis Beckett
    @LouisBeckett

    Doug Watt (View Comment):Clink on the link for the story about the Canyon Creek Fire in Oregon.

    Wow, such an important story, thanks for linking to it – and good for The Oregonian to do its own investigation. We’ve seen these tactical errors first-hand in California, such as when resources are not deployed while fires are “down” only to have forecasted winds destroy neighborhoods the next day. Zero commentary by California or national media, which is more focused on the personal story tragedies of people losing their homes (and this year, Climate Change).

    • #20
  21. Louis Beckett Contributor
    Louis Beckett
    @LouisBeckett

    James Golden (View Comment):
    The truth of the matter is that we’ve had a very dry winter here in SoCal with Santa Ana winds a regular occurrence. That is the proximate cause of the fires, even if specific human activities are the “but for” cause of some of the fires.

    Thanks for raising this point. It is rare for fires to spontaneously ignite, even in these dry conditions. If people were not idiotically reckless in using fire or causing sparks around a tinder box of brush, these fires would not happen. Yes, the huge fuel loads and dry conditions (and wind) allow the fire to move rapidly, heat to extreme levels, and exacerbate what is already a human-caused fire. But fire experts pushed the Thomas Fire to recent “burn scars” so that they could stop it above the city of Santa Barbara (and they did that successfully) — the fuel loads make a big difference.

    Dry weather is the factor least in our control, though it ought to remind us to actively manage forests and brush levels so that even if people are reckless in using fire around the tinder box, the damage can and will be mitigated.

    • #21
  22. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Wouldn’t you think that the climate-change folks and the rest of America could at least agree that maybe it’s not a great idea to build (often very expensive) houses that are sitting ducks for what are essentially predictable natural events?  Climate change or no climate change, there will never be zero risk of fire in California or hurricanes in Florida or….subzero temperatures and Nor’easters in Maine!

    • #22
  23. Snake Plissken Inactive
    Snake Plissken
    @lawrencewallman

    The persistent lack of public curiosity and media scrutiny regarding who might be INTENTIONALLY igniting these “wildfires” is reminiscent of the lack of will in the population of ELOI as the WARLOCKS periodically harvest some of them. One hopes that somewhere within the Homeland Security apparatus there is someone looking into possible terrorist-related causes. This last summer in WA and OR State, and in BC, numerous fires raged during weeks of drought. Absent during this period were any of the natural ignition mechanisms, chiefly lightning. At the same time, Islamist FaceBook and online web pages celebrate, encourage, and educate the “lone wolves” about setting “wildfires” in the homeland of the Infidel. Not to mention the usual other suspects–amateur arsonists, careless/drunk hunters, kooks, etc. “So what?”, you understandably retort. “Are we supposed to set up “Pre-Crime” units to traipse through the woods looking for perps?” I say: maybe–we don’t really need “Pre-Cogs” for that, just a semi-roused public to take their eyes off of their smartphone screens and look around a bit. Maybe some encouragement from Homeland Security agencies. In so many ways, the enemies of freedom can destroy nations from within…burning them up is now proving highly effective, especially when facilitated by the ELOI’s continual anointing of Jerry Brown-type demagogues and incompetents to manage our states and cities.

    • #23

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