- Several prominent Democrats were quick to blame climate change for causing the devastating fires that have killed more than 100 people in Hawaii, but information has surfaced suggesting that government shortcomings may bear a larger share of responsibility than these Democrats have publicly suggested.
- Emergency alert sirens in Lahaina, a Maui town hit especially hard, never sounded, the town’s 911 emergency service went offline and firefighters battling the blaze reportedly could not access enough water, according to The New York Times, while other experts have downplayed the role played by hurricanes and the state’s questionable land management strategy.
- “The number one job of government is public safety, and they totally dropped the ball at every level,” Steve Milloy, senior E&E legal fellow and former Trump EPA transition team member, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Several Democrats were quick to blame climate change for causing the Hawaiian fires that began Aug. 8 and ravaged communities in Maui, but emerging evidence suggests that government failures and faulty infrastructure may be more to blame for the tragedy that has so far claimed 106 lives.
Reports began to surface Tuesday and Wednesday that a downed power line ignited the fires, which ripped through the island of Maui and caught many locals by surprise, a scenario which likely contributed to the high death toll when combined with failures in the government’s emergency alert system and a lack of water available to firefighters who first arrived to extinguish the flames, according to The New York Times. Democratic Hawaii Gov. Mark Green has consistently claimed that climate change was responsible for the disaster’s scale, as have other Democrats, despite the apparent shortcomings in the government’s response to the fires.
“The number one job of government is public safety, and they totally dropped the ball at every level,” Steve Milloy, senior E&E legal fellow and former Trump EPA transition team member, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “They had actual knowledge of conditions on the ground, they understood that wildfires could be a risk, they had a duty and they did nothing” to proactively mitigate the risks of a devastating fire for which they appeared to be unprepared, Milloy continued.
Green has stated repeatedly in the wake of the disaster that climate change and its effects are “the ultimate reason that so many people perished,” according to the NYT. (RELATED: Canadian Government Forest Fire Stats Contradict White House ‘Climate Change’ Narrative)
REPORTER: “Mr. President, any comment on the rising death toll in Maui?”
BIDEN: “No. no comment.”
REPORTER 2: “Will you come talk about the Hawaii response, Mr. President?”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) August 14, 2023
Emergency alert sirens in the hard-hit town of Lahaina never sounded, the town’s 911 emergency service went offline and firefighters battling the blaze reportedly ran out of water, according to the NYT. As a result, many residents trying to flee the blazes were left to burn alive in their vehicles.
In addition to the failures of infrastructure, experts have said that vast areas of unmanaged land on the island featured dense concentrations of non-native grasses that made large swaths of land akin to tinderboxes, according to the NYT. The possibility of a large-scale wildfire was not unknown to the state of Hawaii, as the government assessed in 2020 that West Maui, where Lahaina is located, has a 90% chance of wildfires each year on average.
Other Democrats have rushed to blame climate change for being the primary cause of the tragedy. Democrat Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said Sunday that “we very much need to acknowledge that climate change is upon us” and that “we need to be assessing our ability to contend with this kind of naturally-occurring disasters” during an appearance on CNN, in which she also blamed strong winds from Hurricane Dora as a contributing factor for the scale of the blazes.
However, the winds that fanned the flames that devoured Lahaina were natural trade winds, and not from Hurricane Dora, which passed hundreds of miles to the south of the Hawaiian islands, according to analysis conducted by Cliff Mass, a meteorologist and professor for the University of Washington’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences. Advocates for sweeping government action on climate change often cite intensified and more frequent hurricanes as a result of human-caused climate change.
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts tweeted that “this is a climate emergency” in response to a video of the smoldering island Thursday. Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri tweeted that “the climate crisis is here and its (sic) killing people” regarding the disaster, while also calling upon President Joe Biden to formally declare a climate emergency.
Official declaration of a climate emergency would enable Biden to access special powers, including the ability to ban oil exports and use the Defense Production Act to ramp up green technology manufacturing.
“Scientists are clear that climate chaos wreaking havoc on ecosystems everywhere is the new norm,” Democratic Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley tweeted last week. “We need to take action immediately or else it will get even worse.”
In July, wildfires ripped through Rhodes, a Greek island popular with tourists comparable to Maui in terms of its size and population, catching bystanders largely by surprise. However, emergency systems and procedures worked in that crisis, which ultimately saved hundreds of lives that may have otherwise been lost, wrote Costas Synolakis, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California.
“The governor, a Democrat, is out there trying to dodge responsibility by blaming climate change, and of course, the media is right there with him… there’s no evidence that you can blame emissions, or whatever climate change is occurring, for a failure of government,” Milloy added. “If you want the job, you have to perform and take responsibility when things go wrong,” Milloy said of Green and his administration’s actions to the DCNF.
The White House announced Wednesday morning that Biden will take a break from his vacation to Lake Tahoe to visit the devastated island, which voted for him overwhelmingly in the 2020 presidential election. Biden drew intense criticism earlier in the week after he told reporters Sunday that he had “no comment” regarding the tragic situation in Hawaii while spending time at the beach in Delaware.
The offices of Green, Hirono, Markey, Bush and Merkley did not respond immediately to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
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