Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), along with his progressive allies, is using the wildfires ravaging the west to push for a Green New Deal, casting blame on President Trump, whom he says “rejects science and calls climate change a hoax.”
“The 2nd, 3rd & 4th largest wildfires in California’s history continue to rage. The sky on the West Coast turned red & orange. Please don’t tell me the Green New Deal is radical,” Sanders said on Thursday alongside a photo of California’s orange sky.
“What’s radical is having a president in office who rejects science and calls climate change a hoax,” he added:
The 2nd, 3rd & 4th largest wildfires in California's history continue to rage. The sky on the West Coast turned red & orange. Please don't tell me the Green New Deal is radical. What's radical is having a president in office who rejects science and calls climate change a hoax. pic.twitter.com/SGuN6noKF7
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 10, 2020
Similarly, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said the images coming out of his state represent a “cry out for change.”
“CA has invested more in wildfire prevention than any time in our history. Enacted bold climate policies. But it’s not enough,” he said. “We must do more. We need action at EVERY level. CA cannot do this alone.”
“Climate change is REAL,” he added, urging Americans to vote:
These pictures cry out for change. CA has invested more in wildfire prevention than any time in our history. Enacted bold climate policies. But it’s not enough.
We must do more. We need action at EVERY level. CA cannot do this alone.
Climate change is REAL.
So please — VOTE. pic.twitter.com/ev6jd0Adky
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 10, 2020
“This is what climate change looks like,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said, providing pictures of the scenes in the west. “The proof is right in front of us”:
The sky is orange over California. Half a million acres are burning.
This is what climate change looks like. The proof is right in front of us.
This is a national emergency — it's now or never. pic.twitter.com/17CA4kSnui
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) September 10, 2020
“None of this is normal, and confronting climate change is on the ballot this year,” Hillary Clinton said on Thursday, asking people to vote “as early as you can, for a habitable planet”:
None of this is normal, and confronting climate change is on the ballot this year.
Vote, as early as you can, for a habitable planet. pic.twitter.com/lFfLFeB7iG
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 10, 2020
Other progressive leaders joined in the narrative, demanding climate change action:
Climate change is real. https://t.co/SjJfiywhkL
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) September 10, 2020
California and Oregon are on fire. People are losing their lives and property at an alarming rate because we are failing to combat climate change.
This isn't a one-off story. This is a pattern. In the years to come, the fires won't stop unless we act—now. https://t.co/ZVzZCyZQGU
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) September 10, 2020
The west coast is on fire and our President thinks climate change is a hoax.
We need a Green New Deal & a new president.
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) September 10, 2020
The fires across the West Coast are just the latest examples of the very real ways our changing climate is changing our communities. Protecting our planet is on the ballot. Vote like your life depends on it—because it does. pic.twitter.com/gKGegXWxQu
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 10, 2020
Critics say the left’s narrative is misguided, as it ignores the reality of poor forest management driven by environmentalists. Earlier this year, a panel of experts attributed the wildfires across the region to “the way we manage lands and develop our landscape” rather than climate change, primarily, as Breitbart News reported:
Speaking at the annual conference of the National Council for Science and the Environment in Washington D.C., Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley, said that perhaps 20 to 25 percent of the wildfire damage resulted from climate change, whereas “75 percent is the way we manage lands and develop our landscape.”
Stephens noted that in past centuries, wildfires were far more widespread than they are today, and played a vital role in California’s ecosystem by helping to thin forests, Thomas Frank reported for E&E News.
In the 18th century, for instance, when California was occupied by indigenous communities, wildfires would burn up some 4.5 million acres a year, said Stephens, whereas from 2013 through 2019, wildfires burned an average of just 935,000 acres annually in California.
A greater focus has been placed on “fire suppression” rather than prescribed burning, which California’s Environmental Protection Agency described as “the intentional use of fire to reduce wildfire hazards, clear downed trees, control plant diseases, improve rangeland and wildlife habitats, and restore natural ecosystems.”
“Fire suppression activities over the last 100–150 years have largely taken fire out of the system, causing far-reaching changes in habitats and forest health,” the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) states on its website.
“Many of the forest plant communities are not adapted to today’s exceedingly hot fires,” CAL FIRE continued. “During these fires many mature trees succumb from top kill while others have their roots killed due to decades of accumulated debris burning down into the root zones.”
Newsom recently agreed to a plan a $1 billion plan, in agreement with the United States Forest Service, to “clear vegetation that fuels fires on one million acres annually by 2025, with a plan on how to do that in place in 2021,” as Breitbart News detailed.
One hundred and two fires are raging across 12 states and have burned 4.4 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Correction: The photo on this article was incorrectly identified as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The photo depicts the Bidwell Bar Bridge in Oroville, California. The photo caption and story have been updated accordingly.