On Monday, Democratic nominee Joe Biden condemned President Donald Trump as a “climate arsonist,” predicting that if the president wins reelection in November, America will witness more “hellish” events like fires in the West, flooding in the Midwest, and hurricanes on the East Coast. He effectively promised that if he wins, America will suffer from fewer fires, fewer floods, and fewer hurricanes.
Although Biden excoriated Trump for “ignoring the facts” and “denying reality,” he focused his remarks on the wildfires ravaging California, Oregon, and Washington State — fires exacerbated by bad forest management more than any sort of climate change.
“If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze? If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is under water?” Biden asked.
“Donald Trump’s climate denial may not have caused these fires and record floods and record hurricanes, but if he gets a second term, these hellish events will continue to become more common, more devastating, and more deadly,” the Democrat insisted.
“Meanwhile, Donald Trump warns that integration is threatening our suburbs,” Biden said, referring to Trump’s attack on Biden’s plan to federalize local zoning (which poses a serious threat to local control of neighborhoods in the name of racial integration). “It’s ridiculous. But you know what is actually threatening our suburbs?”
“Wildfires are burning the suburbs in the West, floods are wiping out suburban neighborhoods in the Midwest, hurricanes are imperiling suburban life along our coast,” Biden said. “If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned from wildfires? How many suburban neighborhoods will have been flooded out? How many suburbs will have been blown away in superstorms?”
Climate change is the existential challenge that will define our future as a country. Tune in as I discuss the wildfires up and down the West Coast — and how I'll tackle the climate crisis head-on and create millions of good-paying jobs: https://t.co/yMhodX8RYe
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 14, 2020
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The truth about California’s wildfires
Joe Biden’s argument boils down to the idea that burning fossil fuels is the key cause behind all worsening of extreme weather events, other contributing factors be damned. Those who disagree are “deniers” of “science.” Nevermind the fact that claims of a climate change “consensus” are misleading and overblown, or the facts that climate alarmist predictions have proven wrong time and time again for 50 years.
Biden opened his remarks with a discussion of the devastating wildfires in the West. He noted that the damage in the past two years has reached nearly $50 billion in California alone and that this year, nearly 5 million acres have burned across ten states. He said locals, living “in the shadow of an orange sky” are asking, “Is doomsday here?”
The wildfires are indeed horrific, but climate change isn’t the real story. When it comes to wildland fire mitigation, in particular, I learned the truth from my father, who has been a volunteer fireman for more than 30 years.
I grew up in the foothills of dry Colorado, where the grass is not green but brown. My father sent my brother and me out to rake up dry leaves, pine trees, and other materials we termed “duff” — matter from the forest floor that would go up in flames upon contact with the smallest spark. My father — and later my brother and I — would go out with a chainsaw to trim the lower-hanging pine branches and a weed-whacker to take care of the tall grasses.
For my Eagle Scout project, I led a team of men and boys to clear out the forest floor and trim low-hanging branches near a large propane tank — in order to prevent potential forest fires from spreading up the mountain to burn the houses nearby.
Clearing the forest floor is thankless work, and it is far more efficient to set a small, controlled fire and let nature do the job for you. As Ars Technica’s Scott Johnson reported, a Stanford research team found that about 20 percent of California — 20 million acres — would benefit from controlled burns.
Climate activists have opposed the harvesting of dead trees and the aggressive clearing of brush, however. Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) vetoed forest management attempts in 2016. California’s forests don’t get the work they need because private landowners fear liability for controlled burns, CAL FIRE doesn’t have enough resources to prioritize controlled burns, and stringent climate regulations make it difficult for proposed burns to get approved.
President Trump has encouraged California to use proper forest management to combat the wildfires. He noted that forest fires are “starting again in California. I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up.”
Biden condemned Trump for his common-sense advice, suggesting that the president was blaming the victims.
“The West is literally on fire, and he blames the people whose homes and communities are burning,” the Democrat said. “He says, ‘You’ve got to clean your floors, you’ve got to clean your forests.'”
Yes, Trump said that, and he’s 100 percent right. Steve Milloy, a former Trump/Pence EPA transition team member and founder of JunkScience.com, noted that California “has experienced megadroughts lasting as long as 220 years over the past 1,100 years — a period before the advent of SUVs and fossil fuel power plants.”
Wildfires in California, like wildfires in my native Colorado, are nothing new. Poor forest management, not climate change, is the true culprit. If Joe Biden thinks merely talking about forest management constitutes “blaming the victim,” then it seems he’s unlikely to champion the policies that would restrain the spread of wildfires in California.
Floods and hurricanes
Biden did not just promise fewer and less devastating fires if he wins in November. He also promised to cut down on the floods and hurricanes. He attributed these natural disasters to climate change, too, as if floods had never happened in the Midwest and hurricanes had never hit the East Coast before humans started burning fossil fuels.
Although the Midwest did experience devastating floods last year, floods in that area are not exactly new. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in U.S. history, and it came only a few decades after the invention of the automobile.
“Midwest floods are not new,” Milloy told PJ Media. “Huge floods proved torrential in the 1920s, for example.” Milloy argued that land use, specifically the use of concrete and poor stormwater management, can divert “excess water into waterways, causing flooding.”
As for hurricanes, many peer-reviewed studies have disputed the notion that carbon emissions make hurricanes worse. Yet Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) suggested that “there were no hurricanes” hitting New York before the devastating impacts of climate change. Yet analysis of sedimentary evidence from New Jersey showed that a major hurricane struck the New York/New Jersey area between 1278 to 1438, long before the internal combustion engine.
To the hammer (and sickle?) of climate alarmism and government regulation, every natural disaster is a nail. Biden attacks Trump as a “climate arsonist” but he’s the one using natural disasters as a rhetorical weapon against his opponent. There is no evidence that more stringent regulations on fossil fuels will prevent wildfires, floods, and hurricanes that have plagued these parts of America for centuries.
However, California’s rolling blackouts provide concrete evidence that a forced transition to green energy makes energy more expensive and more scarce for a society. Biden’s energy policies could bring California’s rolling blackouts to the rest of America. Far from preventing tragedies, his policies would actually create them.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.