Cabinet agencies prop up debunked Trump lies about California fires
By Oliver Willis
Some of Trump’s Cabinet secretaries are feeding his delusional conspiracy theories about how environmentalists are really to blame for the California wildfires.
The wildfire crisis in California isn’t being caused by environmentalists — it’s being caused by climate change. But you wouldn’t know that from listening to Trump, or to some of his top administration officials.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who was recently exposed as possibly “one of the biggest grifters in American history,” issued a nonsense statement Thursday ordering the National Marine Fisheries Service to prioritize sending water to firefighters over everything else.
The implication of Ross’ statement seems to be that firefighters don’t have enough water to fight fires, and that one reason for this is that water is being diverted to the environmental preservation of salmon habitats.
Ross seemed to be backing up Trump’s Sunday tweet about the wildfires, which left most experts totally baffled: “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.”
The problem with both Ross’ statement and Trump’s tweet? California firefighters have no idea what either of them are talking about, and say firefighters have plenty of water to do their jobs. Fish habitats have nothing to do with it.
“We’re having no issues with water supplies,” Scott McLean, deputy chief at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the Washington Post. McLean added that he “was surprised like everybody else” to read Trump’s nonsensical tweets about the wildfires.
The Washington Post noted the fires are burning near some of the largest lakes in the state, and that while Trump appears to believe fighting fires merely means dumping buckets of water, that is not the case. “Firefighters also deploy chemical fire retardants and clear lines of vegetation to contain blazes,” the Post reported.
Also on Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wrote a USA Today op-ed that used a different excuse to blame environmentalists for the wildfires: claiming that “frivolous litigation from radical environmentalists” is supposedly blocking loggers from removing trees that burn easily.
This is also nonsense. As Greg Aplet of The Wilderness Society told the Post, “some management” of forests “is appropriate.”
His concern, which is no small one considering the Trump administration’s hostility to the environment, is about “people’s concern about fire [being] used to change the rules that govern environmental review for projects.” In other words, that loggers will use wildfires as an excuse to ignore basic environmental protections and cut all the trees they want.
Both cynical moves from Trump’s Cabinet secretaries use the fires to bolster Trump’s conspiracy-mongering, while utterly ignoring the role of climate change in increasing the frequency and intensity of fires.
It’s “shocking” how much worse California fires have gotten thanks to climate change, Mike Mohler, deputy director at the Cal Fire agency, explained to USA Today.
“There’s no more fire season. It’s fire year-round,” Mohler said. And now, Mohler said, the type of destruction that he used to see every 10 to 12 years is happening “almost on a monthly basis.”
The latest California wildfires have been burning for weeks and claimed eight lives. But when Trump finally tweeted about the deadly fires for the first time earlier this week, he didn’t discuss the lost lives, or even the lost homes.
Instead, Trump — as he so often has — promoted a conspiracy theory.
Now, Trump’s Cabinet secretaries are using official channels to back up these dangerous delusions — from the same guy who has repeatedly said that he believes climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese government.
This article first appeared on the American Independent Institute blog. Republished with permission (CC-BY-ND-4.0). Featured image by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel/Ellsworth Air Force Base