Did you hear the scary rumor at the weekend that President Trump was about to renege on his promise to quit the UN Paris Climate Agreement?
The good news is that it was #fakenews. (Shame on you, WSJ!)
The bad news is that it wasn’t so implausible as to make anyone go “Donald Trump? Cave to the Greenies?? That would never happen in a million years!!!”
Because the fact is, he still could very easily.
After all, on green issues it’s not just a case of Donald Trump vs. Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, National Geographic, the Weather Channel, the Democrats, the Washington Post, the National Academy of Sciences, the UN, the European Union, the Nature Conservancy, the WWF, most university professors, and your kids’ schoolteachers, etc.
It’s also a case of Donald Trump vs. large chunks of Congress and most of his administration, from all the Obama holdovers at the EPA to the majority of his inner circle including Javanka, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chief Economics Advisor Gary Cohn.
So how is Trump ever going to win this uphill struggle?
Simple: by owning the environmental agenda and reminding the American public that it is conservatives—not shrill, rancid greenies with their soap issues, their plaited armpit hair and their obsession with the non-existent issue of climate change—who are best at conserving the natural world.
Trump should make more, for example, of the excellent work being done by his Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in the field of wildfires and forest management.
You’ll almost certainly hear nothing about their efforts in the mainstream media because it concerns conservatives taking control of environmental regulation and working it to the benefit of the environment, as opposed to what liberals and greens generally do which is take control of environmentalism and then abuse it to advance a political agenda which has little if anything to do with saving the environment.
This story has to do with one of the most enduring threats to the environment in the U.S. and beyond—poor forest management and the related problems of wildfires and tree disease.
This is a danger more clear and present than any threat currently posed by “climate change.” In fact, it’s happening across the U.S. right now, as Paul Driessen describes here:
As of September 12, amid this typically long, hot, dry summer out West, 62 major forest fires are burning in nine states, the National Interagency Fire Center reports. The Interior Department and Ag Department’s Forest Service have already spent over $2 billion fighting them. That’s about what they spent in all of 2015, previously the most costly wildfire season ever, and this season has another month or more to go. The states themselves have spent hundreds of millions more battling these conflagrations.
Millions of acres of forest have disappeared in smoke and flames—1.1 million in Montana alone. All told, acreage larger than New Jersey has burned already. However, even this hides the real tragedies.
The infernos exterminate wildlife habitats, roast eagle and spotted owl fledglings alive in their nests, immolate wildlife that can’t run fast enough, leave surviving animals to starve for lack of food, and incinerate organic matter and nearly every living creature in the thin soils. They turn trout streams into fish boils, minus the veggies and seasonings. Future downpours and rapid snowmelts bring widespread soil erosion into streambeds. Many areas will not grow trees or recover their biodiversity for decades.
Most horrifically, the conflagrations threaten homes and entire communities. They kill fire fighters and families that cannot get away quickly enough, or get trapped by sudden walls of flames.
In 2012, two huge fires near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colorado burned 610 homes, leaving little more than ashes, chimneys and memories. Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated through smoke and ash that turned daytime into choking night skies. Four people died. A 1994 fire near Glenwood Springs, CO burned 14 young firefighters to death.
Yup. You might imagine that all those dead trees and animals—the dead humans not so much, I fear—would galvanize all those Greenies to do whatever they can to help the Trump administration deal with this major ongoing problem, but they won’t for one simple and shocking reason: It’s a problem almost entirely of the green movement’s making.
When I first read about this a few years back in Elizabeth Nickson’s superb book Eco-Fascists, I was aghast to discover the degree to which so many of the world’s worst environmental disasters are the creation of environmentalists. There’s so much evidence it’s undeniable. From the millions of birds and bats slaughtered by wind turbines or fried by solar arrays to the acres of rain forests chopped down to create “eco-friendly” biofuels, the greens are doing tremendous damage to the very environment they claim to be trying to preserve for “future generations.”
Almost nowhere is this man-made blight more evident than the damage the greens have done to America’s forests. It’s the result of their ideological opposition to the thing they sneerily call “the logging industry” but which really ought to be called by its less-loaded name “forest management.” Driessen continues, saying:
Environmentalists abhor timber cutting on federal lands, especially if trees might feed profit-making sawmills. They would rather see trees burn, than let someone cut them. They constantly file lawsuits to block any cutting, and too many judges are all too happy to support their radical ideas and policies.
Thus, even selective cutting to thin dense stands of timber, or remove trees killed by beetles or fires, is rarely permitted. Even fire fighting and suppression are often allowed only if a fire was clearly caused by arson, careless campers or other human action—but not if lightning ignited it. Then it’s allowed to burn, until a raging inferno is roaring over a ridge toward a rural or suburban community.
The result is easy to predict. Thousands of thin trees grow on acreage that should support just a few hundred full-sized mature trees. Tens of billions of these scrawny trees mix with 6.3 billion dead trees that the Forest Service says still stand in eleven western states. Vast forests are little more than big trees amid closely bunched matchsticks and underbrush, drying out in hot, dry western summers and droughts—waiting for lightning bolts, sparks, untended campfires or arsonists to start super-heated conflagrations.
Flames in average fires along managed forest floors might reach several feet in height and temperatures of 1,472° F (800° C), says Wildfire Today. But under extreme conditions of high winds and western tinderboxes, temperatures can exceed 2,192° F (1200° C), flame heights can reach 165 feet (50 meters) or more, and fires can generate a critter-roasting 100,000 kilowatts per meter of fire front. Wood will burst into flame at 572° F. Aluminum melts at 1,220 degrees, silver at 1,762 and gold at 1,948° F!
Most of this heat goes upward, but super-high temperatures incinerate soil organisms and organic matter in thin western soils that afterward can support only stunted, spindly trees for decades.
These fires also emit prodigious quantities of carbon dioxide, fine particulates and other pollutants—including mercury, which is absorbed by tree roots from rocks and soils that contain this metal, and then lofted into the sky when the trees burn.
Rabid greens ignore these hard realities—and divert discussions back to their favorite ideological talking points. The problem isn’t too many trees, they insist. It’s global warming and climate change. That’s why western states are having droughts, long fire seasons, and high winds that send flames past fire breaks.
Yep, the Trump administration has no business concerning itself with fake environmental problems like “man-made global warming,” but it can definitely take the lead in dealing with real environmental problems like tree disease and deforestation, as currently being addressed in an excellent bill put forward by the only forester in Congress, Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.)
Westerman’s Resilient Federal Forests Act (HR 2936) is a timely and necessary bipartisan proposal to cut through all the environmental red tape which currently prevents federal forests being correctly managed.
As Nick Smith urged earlier this year at the Hill:
Congress should pass this legislation without delay, because the Forest Service estimates that at least 58 million acres of national forest are at high, or very high, risk of catastrophic wildfire. Due to bureaucracy, litigation and the unsustainable costs of fighting today’s mega-fires, the agency treats only a small fraction of this amount on a yearly basis. The Forest Service has also identified over 1.1 million acres in need of reforestation as a result of these fires. Without action we will continue to lose more forest lands that support rural economies, recreation and wildlife habitat.
He’s right, but Trump can go further than this.
In the last ten years America has lost over 500 million deciduous trees. The hardwood trees in America and around the world are under attack by a tsunami of fungi, bacteria and insects.
There is nothing more emblematic of our environment than our trees. Our trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. There are reports that globally trees annually take up between 20 percent-40 percent of man-made CO2. These trees shelter birds and wildlife, and are the backbone of our natural ecology. Trees are the lungs of our city; reducing pollution, providing oxygen, and humanizing our urban areas.
If Trump can take ownership of this issue—involving everything from the Department of the Interior to the EPA on a radical program to control wildfires, interdict tree disease, and reforest America—then the benefits to his presidency will be almost incalculable.
- It will genuinely make America a better place to live, with a healthier, better protected environment.
- It will completely wrongfoot the greenies, pulling the rug from under their claims to being the only people who care about nature—perhaps even co-opting the support of some liberals who previously thought they hated Trump.
- Trump will emerge as the greatest Environmentalist president since Theodore Roosevelt.
What could there be here not to like?