Aug 5, 2018 - Energy & Environment

Trump claims California wildfires "made so much worse" by environmental laws

President Trump tweeted on Sunday evening about the ongoing California wildfires, stating that "bad environmental laws" have "magnified" the disaster and "made [it] so much worse."

"California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!"

Our thought bubble, via Axios science editor Andrew Freedman: President Trump appears to be referring to endangered species protections, which mandate availability of water for some species. However, firefighters haven’t complained about lack of water for firefighting, but rather, the extreme nature of these fires.

  • The factors contributing to these fires include decades of national forest mismanagement and climate change, which is making summers hotter and drier than they otherwise would be.
  • The Trump administration is working on broad changes to the Endangered Species Act — as well as opening federal forests to logging, oil and gas drilling. This tweet appears to tie the fires to both policy goals — without any evidence that they are key factors in the state’s devastating fire season.

What they're saying:

  • Ryan Maue, a meteorologist who works with the Cato Institute: "Blue check marks: please take a deep breath and read up on California's forest management issues that are decades in the making. Governor Brown blames climate change for wildfires and avoids any meaningful conversation on policy solutions."
  • Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA: "Lost in recent conversation over #wildfire risk is the following point by @thirstygecko: Warming #climate & drying forests/vegetation across American West is clearly not the only relevant factor behind emerging era of megafires. But it is large & growing contributor.#CAfire #CAwx"

Go deeper: In vast stretches of the warming, drying American West, there is no well-defined wildfire season anymore.

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