GUEST WORDS--President Donald Trump partially blamed low availability of water for the wildfires that have spread across California in a tweet on Sunday. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
In his first public statement on the wildfires that have ravaged over 150,000 acres in California, President Donald Trump confounded and frustrated many on social media with a tweet blaming California's "bad environmental laws" for the blazes.
While climate scientists in recent weeks have stated that above-average temperatures in the state throughout the summer, driven by the climate crisis, have created conditions in which wildfires have spread rapidly and have been difficult to control, the president spouted out right-wing talking points in response to the disasters.
California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!
"Even if we eliminated all habitat for riparian species and fish, and allowed saltwater intrusion into the delta and set up a sprinkler system over the state, that wouldn't compensate for greater moisture loss from climate change," Professor LeRoy Westerling, who researches wildfire and climatology at University of California-Merced, told the San Francisco Chroniclein response to Trump's theory.
Alex Hall, a climate scientist at UCLA, told theNew York Timesthat while the causes of wildfires can be complex, sustained high temperatures contribute to their rapid spread.
"What has been really unusual in the Western U.S. this summer has been the sustained heat," Hall told theTimes last week. "It really pulls water out of vegetation, and that sets up conditions for big fires."
While many on Twitter saw Trump's latest tweet as a topic for ridicule, Christian Science Monitorjournalist Dan Murphy called the president's statement "vile, repugnant, and dangerous" in its inaccuracy—especially considering Trump's attempts to undermine climate action that would help to stem the climate crisis.
As Murphy mentions, the president appeared to reference an argument made by Republicans about building more dams as a means to reduce the damage of California's droughts. Fourteen Republican lawmakers appealed to the California Water Commission last year to secure funding for a $3 billion dam proposal on the San Joaquin River.
But as science columnist Michael Hiltzik wrote in the Los Angeles Timesin May, dam-building has fallen out of favor in the U.S. in recent decades, due to "recognition that dams are expensive, environmentally disastrous, and offer benefits that are frequently oversold and fade away over time."
Additionally, firefighters who have battled the Carr and the Mendocino Complex fires in northern California have not reported a lack of water to fight the blazes.
According to Climate Centralreporter John Upton, Trump's call to "tree clear" was a likely reference to the logging industry—which the president has sought to help before in his attacks on national monuments.
But Trump's worst offense, critics said, was ignoring the reality of the climate crisis days after taking steps to make it harder for California to regulate auto emissions—likely helping to make out-of-control, deadly wildfires a fact of life for Californians in years to come.
(Julia Conley writes for the excellent Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)