Summer is here, and that means Western states are busy battling the wildfires that inevitably rage during the dry season. But a lull in wildfires this year has given some areas a needed reprieve this fire season.
The White House, however, has already seized upon news of massive fires in states like California to make the link between increasing wildfires and global warming. President Obama has once again sent out his science czar Dr. John Holdren to highlight the alleged link between the two.
“Climate change has been making the fire season in the United States and, on average, more intense,” Holdren says in a White House video claiming that global warming will increase wildfires.
“Nationwide, the eight worst years on record, in terms of area burned, have all occurred since the year 2000,” Holdren added. “Wildfires, of course, are dangerous to human health, costly in terms of property loss and generally harmful to ecosystems.”
The National Climate Assessment also predicted that longer and drier summers will become more common as the earth warms.
“In short, wildfires accentuated by climate change are putting communities, lives, health, jobs and valuable natural resources at risk.”
Fortunately for the country — unfortunately for the White House climate agenda — the Western U.S. is in the quietest wildfire in four years, according to federal fire data. The country’s current fire experience is also well below the ten-year average.
National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) data shows that more than 2.5 million acres have burned this year through Aug. 14 — far less than the 2004 to 2013 average of 4.9 million acres. The only year so far to have fewer acres burned by wildfires was 2010, which saw more than 2.2 million acres burned.
FEMA statistics, however, show that wildfires have increased since 2003, but stayed relatively stable (and even fell a little) between 2006 and 2012. Though U.S. wildfires are still dramatically lower than they were in the 1930s and 1940s.
In 1930, wildfires consumed more than 50 million acres of land, but in 2012 wildfires only burnt up 9.2 million acres. During this time, carbon dioxide emissions were much lower than they are today.
“These data suggest that extremely large megafires were 4-times more common before 1940,” Dr. David South of Auburn University told Senators during a June hearing, “we cannot reasonably say that anthropogenic global warming causes extremely large wildfires.”
“However, in today’s world of climate alarmism, where accuracy doesn’t matter, I am not at all surprised to see many journalists spreading the idea that carbon emissions cause large wildfires,” South said.
South argued that claims of global warming-induced wildfires doesn’t match up with the empirical evidence. Wildfire levels are more of a result of forest management, not a warming climate, according to South.
“Policy makers who halt active forest management and kill ‘green’ harvesting jobs in favor of a ‘hands-off’ approach contribute to the buildup of fuels in the forest,” South told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in June.
“This eventually increases the risk of catastrophic wildfires,” South said. “To attribute this human-caused increase in fire risk to carbon dioxide emissions is simply unscientific.”
Even though the evidence linking global warming to wildfires may not be clear, NIFC warns of “significant wildland fire potential” through November. This means that more fires could consume more acres in the Western U.S. and elsewhere.
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