Many California Republicans side with Trump in dismissing climate change as wildfire cause

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Sunday, September 20, 2020

Trump, during a trip to Sacramento, stunned many by scoffing at the scientific consensus that temperatures are rising globally and predicted the Earth will “start getting cooler.” But Republicans from rural corners of the state are also loudly objecting to the idea that efforts to reduce emissions will help, even as others in the party warm to the idea of doing something about climate change.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a staunch Trump ally, blasted “the geniuses in the Democrat Socialist Party” for “saying global warming is causing these forest fires.”

“Kids are being indoctrinated,” he said during an interview on Fresnos KMJ radio station this month, according to Politico.

Rep. Tom McClintock, whose Central Valley district is the site of a fire that has burned more than 246,000 acres, told Newsmax TV this week that California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is “delusional” if he thinks “these wildfires will go away” if more people ride bicycles and lower their thermostats.

Some California Republicans are reiterating Trump’s claim that poor forest management is the main fire culprit.

“We passed laws in the 1970s that made the management of our forests and our wild lands all but impossible, and nature is taking over,” McClintock said. “Look, these environmental laws that we pass apply only to public lands. Today, you can easily tell the boundaries between the private and public lands simply by the conditions of the forests. Now how clever of the climate to know exactly the boundary line between the public lands and private lands, and only to decimate the public lands.”

He added: “The fact is, the climate has changed much over the centuries, but the problem has not.”

Rep. Doug LaMalfa, whose Northern California district is also ablaze, similarly accused Newsom of espousing a “radical” position on climate change after the governor visited the fire-scarred region and promised to redouble the state’s efforts to address climate change.

“Today, the Governor had the audacity to come tour the North Complex and peddle his climate change agenda while offering zero solutions to alleviate the pain of our people or get these fires under control,” LaMalfa responded in a news release on Sept. 11.

Savannah Glasgow, a LaMalfa spokeswoman, added that the congressman supports legislation that would make it easier to reduce the amount of combustible material in forests.

“To break the cycle of continued catastrophic fires, it’s imperative that we get back into the forests and reduce the fuel load,” she said. “Decades of mismanagement in our federal forests are the largest contributing factor to the destruction in recent years.”

A growing number of GOP lawmakers say they need to acknowledge the climate problem if they hope to retake the House.

None other than House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is leading the charge to change his party’s tune on climate.

His proposal, unveiled at the beginning of the year, is to plant a trillion trees and expand a tax break for companies capable of capturing their emissions — all in an effort to keep carbon dioxide out of the air. But experts say planting more trees, an idea that even has Trump’s backing, is not enough: What’s required, according to U.N. scientists, is an unprecedented economic transition to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

The plan is, in part, a response to shifting attitudes among Republicans on global warming. Polls show that a majority GOP voters under 45 acknowledge that human activity is causing the climate to change.

But not every Republican is on board with the plan. During a hearing in February, McClintock wondered whether public land, already “densely overcrowded and dying because of it,” could handle more trees.

Regarding California’s wildfires, McCarthy said in a statement Friday he believes “forest mismanagement plays a significant factor” and lamented that Democrats will not work with Republicans to make it harder for environmental groups to sue to stop the clearing of underbrush.

“In order to address the high wildfire hazards which have cost hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and have more importantly taken the lives of Californians, we should start by removing the tinderbox of dead and dying trees fueling many of these fires from our forests,” the Republican leader said.

The House Republicans from California who are left after the 2018 midterms are in safely conservative districts.

In fact, there is only one GOP representative from the Golden State at real risk of losing his seat in November. The Cook Political Report projects Rep. Mike Garcias race against Democratic challenger Christy Smith as a toss-up.

Compare 2020 with 2018: Two years ago, Democrats ousted six GOP incumbents from office on their way to taking back control of the House.

Scientists who study the climate say humans are clearly making the wildfire seasons worse.

Although experts say clearing underbrush and other practices can prevent some fires, the buildup of heat-trapping gases from industrial and agricultural activity is dialing up temperatures, drying out vegetation and fueling the fires.

Over 3.4 million acres in California have burned so far this year, destroying nearly 5,400 structures and pumping even more climate-warming carbon dioxide into the air.

Weathering fiercer fires and more intense storms, Americans overall are increasingly concerned about rising temperatures and their effects. A majority of Americans — about 8 in 10 — said that human activity is behind climate change, according to a 2019 poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation.