The fires are raging in the Western United States. Right now, 5 of California’s 10 largest fires in modern history are all burning at once. Of course this is an annual event — forest fires out west are very common and are a natural part of the forest life cycle. What’s not natural is how quickly they’re getting worse.
Trump is loathe to help “blue states.” That was never more clear than this week, when talking about coronavirus deaths, he said “If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue-state-managed.”
This is more proof that he is not interested in anybody but himself and his supporters, but it belies a level of selective ignorance about science that is a recurrent theme. Just yesterday, contradicting his own CDC director, he again discredited the idea that masks were useful and helpful to stop the virus.
Back to the fires. In 2015, Trump said “I’m not a believer in global warming, I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. It could be warming and it’s gonna start to cool at some point.” Notice his use of the word believe[r] — as if it’s something to be believed or not. In 2019, he literally rewrote the forecast of a hurricane in Sharpie to serve his politics.
In 2012 he tweeted “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
For years, Republicans have averred nonsense theories like because we still have winter, the climate CAN’T be changing. They’ve dabbled quite a bit in anti-vaccine propaganda (though so has the left). When science is just another disposable fact, a liar couldn’t care less. When science becomes political, it’s all a big lie — a lie that needs to be couched as a belief to have ANY credibility. But the thing about science is that it deals in facts and truths, which stay true whether you believe them or not. The virus will spread, the forest will burn, the hurricane will hit, the temperature will rise. The longer you deny, the worse it gets (which is not to say that fear-mongering about the climate doomsday is ok either).
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t subscribe to the Green New Deal or the absolutely bananas idea that the federal government can or should spend its way to some sort of asinine bureaucratic solution by remaking the economy top-down. Fossil fuels should be abolished after they’re no longer needed, not before. But it is intellectually dishonest to deny the facts — the overwhelming scientific evidence is clear that climate change is real and that humans are causing and/or accelerating it. We can have all sorts of reasonable debates over the best ways to fix it, how bad it will get, and when — but we can’t reasonably disagree over whether it’s real. It is. And the longer it goes unchecked, the worse it is going to get.
The thing about fires and floods and hurricanes and all the rest is that they create tangible loss — destruction and death. Ignorance of (or willful blindness to) science causes greater death and destruction. It is no accident that Trump goes to California and blames them for the fires. In 2018, while surveying fire damage in CA, Trump couldn’t even come up with something coherent to say. So he said this: “You gotta take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important… I was with the President of Finland… he called it a forest nation and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don’t have any problem.”
The Finnish president denied discussing this with Trump and denied raking their forests. Obviously. As fires were raging and people were dying, he tweeted “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
In January 2019, he tweeted: “Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!”
Stopping funding in the middle of a natural disaster? Classy.
This year, the blame and science denial only got worse. Here’s an absolutely batshit exchange between him and California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot:
Crowfoot: If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together in protecting Californians.
Trump: It’ll start getting cooler, you just watch.
Crowfoot: I wish science agreed with you.
Trump: I don’t think science knows, actually.
The kicker here? The federal government owns 57% of the CA’s forests while state and local agencies own 3% (the remaining 40% belongs to private families, Native American tribes, or companies). The vast majority of the responsibility is Trump’s, yet he encourages the chaos and denies the science. If a blue state is in trouble, he’s winning. If he can lord over them his phony help and support, he’s winning. This is all a game to him — he delights in the destruction and revels in the politics of death.
Nobody is affected by those politics more than the firefighters themselves. Despite being generally conservative in membership, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) was the first union to endorse Joe Biden. Not only because Biden is a supporter of unions generally, but because they’re concerned with “civility and decency” in the political arena, according to their union chief. Trump was furious, tweeting “I’ve done more for firefighters than this dues-sucking union will ever do, and I get paid ZERO.” The IAFF did not endorse anyone in 2016.
Perhaps the clearest sign yet of Trump’s continuing war on science came Tuesday, when Scientific American Magazine endorsed a presidential candidate (Biden) for the first time in 175 years. They wrote that “a 175-year tradition is not something your break lightly, but the president has been so anti-science that we can’t ignore it.”
Science itself is on the ballot, folks.