Recently the Governor of California and Senator Kamala Harris posed for a photo in front of a smoky, charred background, and proclaimed that “climate change is real,” meaning that climate change contributed to the wildfires currently raging throughout the state. The argument goes that the fallen timber that has accumulated on the forest floors is dryer because of higher temperatures, and therefore more likely to ignite.
This is non-sense.
You don’t have to be a scientist to reason this out, you only have to answer a few common sense questions, the first one being how long does it take for firewood to dry? This article, one among many, suggests that it can take anywhere from 3.5 months to 3 years for firewood to dry depending on the type of wood and the climate. For most wood in most places one can estimate that it takes 9-12 months to dry. Cut ends dry faster, so it is universally recommended that firewood be cut in lengths of approximately 16 inches. This article suggests that humidity level is actually more important than temperature. The drier the climate the faster the drying time. A commenter on this thread wrote, “I wish I had the source but I remember reading that wood doubles its rate of drying for every 20F increase in temp outside.” In other words, for every 5F increase in temperature, wood will dry 25% more quickly. I can’t find any verification for that, but let’s throw it onto our information pile.
Let’s go way out on a limb (pardon the expression) and assume that every branch and log on the Golden State’s forest floors is no longer than 16” and that the variety of wood lying there takes one year on average to dry. Let’s add to that an assumption that California’s average temperature has risen 5 degrees in the last 10 years. Applying those assumptions, one concludes that the trees and branches that have died nine months ago are as dry as if they had been lying there for one year, or in other words, as dry as they need be for optimum burning. That is an incredibly small percentage of the total amount of fuel that has been lying on the forest floor for decades. The wood that was there 9 months ago adds nothing to the climate change argument for the simple reason that wood cannot get dryer than dry.
Sasha Berleman, a fire ecologist, explained to Mother Jones in 2017 that “We have 100 years of fire suppression that has led to this huge accumulation of fuel loads.” Fire suppression means that California and the Federal government have spent their time and our tax money fighting small fires instead of managing them. The preferred management method according to this fact sheet from the California Environmental Protection Agency is through prescribed burns, which have been performed on only 11.3% of California’s forests between 2008-2018, according to this article. While the (relatively) small fires are being suppressed, the fuel for catastrophic fires continues to accumulate. All this is true whether the climate is changing or not. Anyone who has ever seen a brush fire or even built a large bonfire knows that once you get it going, it will burn whatever you throw on it no matter how wet or green the wood may be.
Clearly, climate change has nothing to do whatsoever with the wildfires currently raging in California. If we are going to “follow the science,” then by all means let’s follow the science, remembering that science is an ongoing process which constantly develops, modifies, and abandons theories based on newly observed facts. It’s not a religion, though talk of “deniers” (read heretics) and faith that excludes facts demonstrate that climate changers are adherents to a creed, not science.
Yes, the climate changes. That’s why there are fossils of sea creatures in West Virginia and palm trees once grew near the Arctic Circle. Of course, one of the primary tenets of science is drawing conclusions from a proportionately sized sample. Temperatures and other data have been collected in the modern sense only since 1880. The Earth, and its current climate are a tad older than that. Drawing conclusions based on data collected over the last 140 years is irresponsible. It’s not really science, and the wild conclusions based in part on such limited data is the Climate Change religion’s version of the Apocalypse.
Data must not only represent an adequate sample size, it must be put into perspective. The fact that Texas has “more forest and higher temperatures than California” yet “rarely struggles with fires,” and obviously shares the same climate, provides a little—actually, a great deal—of perspective. Likewise, the fact that the acreage consumed by wildfires so far in the United States exceeds a little over 7 million acres, which is not even half of the acreage consumed by wildfire in most years between the mid-1920s through the mid-1940s. In 1930 and 1931 wildfires consumed over 50 million acres.
Michael Shellenberger, who was named a Time magazine “hero of the environment” in 2008, and who has serious concerns about what is now taking place, writes that many scientists are simply wrong about the effects of climate change and, therefore, are wrong about potential solutions. Just this past November, he wrote,
Sometimes, scientists themselves make apocalyptic claims. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” if Earth warms four degrees, said one earlier this year. “The potential for multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” said another. If sea levels rise as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts, another scientist said, “It will be an unmanageable problem.”
Shellenberger notes that the Netherlands have “managed” the problem of living below sea level for 400 years.
These scientist-evangelists are doing their best to put the fear of Climate Change in their believers, but Shellenberger’s article is a profound and compelling antidote to such fevered thinking. Once more, here is the link. I urge you to read it. I urge Gavin Newsome and Kamala Harris to read it as well, but I suspect the palm trees will return to Canada before that happens.