Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Cites Climate Change in Everglades Fire Before Democratic Debates

Everglades lightning (Joe Raedle / Getty)
Joe Raedle / Getty

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined others on the left in citing climate change Tuesday as a cause of a brush fire in the Florida Everglades ahead of the first debates in the Democratic presidential primary in Miami this week.

Ocasio-Cortez retweeted environmental reporter Brian Kahn, who set up the fire as a backdrop to the debate:

Democrats routinely cite climate change as a cause of wildfires. Then-President Barack Obama cited climate change as a cause of wildfires in Yosemite National Park in California in 2016, in the midst of a historic drought in the state. The state’s governor at the time, Jerry Brown, did the same in 2015.

But scientists were skeptical, calling such claims an example of “noble-cause corruption,” in which politicians bend science to suit policies they believe would be good for society.

In the case of the Everglades fire, the immediate cause is lightning. South Florida has also had a rainier-than-usual year, with rainfall well above average for June. Moreover, fire is a regular part of the Everglades ecosystem. As the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) notes, “Fire is an important feature in the Everglades that along with water flow, helps to maintain early successional habitats.” That, in turn, leads to greater species diversity — provided fires are not too destructive.

Nevertheless, Democrats — and journalists — have been linking the Everglades fire and climate change, in a context where Democratic primary voters say the latter is one of their top priorities for the 2020 election. Candidates — and moderators — can be expected to link the fire to climate change, regardless of what science might have to say.

Last month, President Donald Trump announced his support for $200 million towards Everglades restoration.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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