California’s on fire, and so are climate change alarmists

California Policy Center

California’s on fire, and so are climate change alarmists: Fires are burning out of control in California, and the environmentalists and Sacramento politicians are seizing the opportunity to blame global warming. They’re laying the groundwork for new legislation that will transfer even more power to the state and government unions.

Gov. Newsom said this week that he has “no patience” for those skeptical that the historic fires are anything other than a direct result of climate change: “You may not believe it intellectually, but your own eyes, your own experiences, tell a different story….” To paraphrase Groucho Marx: Who are you going to believe, Newsom or your lying brain?

Former coal and oil investor Tom Steyer added, “We didn’t have to be here. Corruption and inaction are what got us here, and only immediate, bold, transformational action will prevent these climate tragedies from getting even worse.” Climate change is real, but is it the sole culprit of the fires ravaging the state?

Green radicals are responsible for red forests: In his most recent analysis, CPC contributor Edward Ring brings much-needed balance to the discussion. He explains how the environmental movement fiercely prevented – and continues to prevent – basic forest management. Ed is an expert in this field. Before cofounding CPC, he founded EcoWorld.com and the popular “GoingGreen” investor conferences. His piece is required reading for anyone looking for a more nuanced view of why the state is on fire. He writes:In 1999, the Associated Press reported that forestry experts had long agreed that “clearing undergrowth would save trees,” and that “years of aggressive firefighting have allowed brush to flourish that would have been cleared away by wildfires.” But very little was done. And now fires of unprecedented size are raging across the Western United States.

“Sen. Feinstein blames Sierra Club for blocking wildfire bill,” reads the provocative headline on a 2002 story in California’s Napa Valley Register. Feinstein had brokered a congressional consensus on legislation to thin “overstocked” forests close to homes and communities, but could not overcome the environmental lobby’s disagreement over expediting the permit process to thin forests everywhere else.

Fire suppression along with too many environmentalist-inspired bureaucratic barriers to controlled burns and undergrowth removal turned the hillsides and canyons of Southern California into tinderboxes.
Climate change spares private forests: Katy Grimes, editor of the California Globe, points out that the disparate impact of climate change on public and private forests suggests another factor is at play, namely the lack of proper forest management in government-run forests:
 For decades, traditional forest management was scientific and successful, until ideological, preservationist zealots wormed their way into government and began the 40-year overhaul of sound federal forest management through abuse of the Endangered Species Act and the no-use movement…Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) … has warned, “Our forests are now catastrophically overgrown, often carrying four times the number of trees the land can support.  In this stressed and weakened condition, our forests are easy prey for drought, disease, pestilence and fire…. Forest fires, fueled by decades of pent up overgrowth are now increasing in their frequency and intensity and destruction… Excess timber will come out of the forest in one of only two ways.  It is either carried out or it burns out….”The same climate change impacts private lands as public lands, but private forests are not burning down because they are properly managed. Or if a fire does break out on privately managed forest land, it is often extinguished more quickly and easily because the trees aren’t so close together and the underbrush has been cleared away. 

Unions have cartelized firefighting: As Steven Greenhut explains in Reason, firefighter unions’ exorbitant compensation demands have led to fewer boots on the ground. Citing CPC’s own analysis, Steve argues that if firefighters were paid a market salary, California would have a lot more troops necessary to fight these fires:
 Frankly, union power drives state and local firefighting policies. The median compensation package for firefighters has topped $240,000 a year in some locales. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firefighters earn less, but their packages still total nearly $150,000 a year. The number of California firefighters who receive compensation packages above $500,000 a year is mind-blowing. Obviously, if the state spends scarce resources in this manner, it will have fewer resources to hire additional firefighters and buy equipment that’s now in short supply…

We all appreciate the work that firefighters do, especially during another grueling fire season, but we shouldn’t forget that firefighting resource shortages are caused by a legislature that is more interested in preserving union wage levels than in creating a firefighting system that works best for the public.

Firefighters unions block fire suppression strategy: Over at Flash Report, Richard Rider explains his decades-long quest for a simple yet significant fire suppression strategy: supplemental volunteer firefighters:
 The most significant reform I have proposed — over and over through the years — is the establishment of a large supplementary volunteer fire brigade for just such conflagrations.

Our professional firefighters need our help. But the sad part is that they definitely don’t WANT our help.  For brush fires, they want “boots on the ground,” but only UNION boots on the ground.  Their goal is to get California governments to hire more professional union firefighters at $180K+ cost annually — to sit around at more and more firehouses 24/7 until — every few years — a major brush fire sweeps the area.  And even then, they will not be able to save most homes in such a fire.

Jordan Bruneau
Communications Director
jordan@calpolicycenter.org

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