On Thursday, as much of the northeastern United States was blanketed for a second day in thick, highly dangerous smoke from raging wildfires in Canada, HuffPost asked Senator Tommy Tuberville (R -ala.) if he saw a connection between the hazy air and the overwhelming body of science that shows global climate change is helping to cause extreme fires.
“We’ve had fires all our lives, come on,” Tuberville scoffed. “We’re all for the environment, but it’s just another situation where you have to do your job in the forests. I mean, you can’t let it grow. It’s unfortunate that this is happening. This will work as well.
It’s true that many American forests are overgrown and prone to devastating fires, largely due to decades of fire suppression and Smokey Bear’s fire messages. But it’s absurd to suggest that solving today’s wildfire problem is as simple as preventing trees from aging. In fact, mature and old-growth forests are more resistant to fire and sequester massive amounts of planet-warming carbon.
Tuberville wasn’t the only Republican to use the historic smoke event — a rare occurrence in cities like New York — to peddle pro-logging talking points while doing somersaults to ignore or downplay the connection with climate change.
At a GOP press conference in the Senate Thursday in Washington, D.C., Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said East Coast residents are getting a taste of the smoky summers that have become the norm in the West.
“That’s what happens when you have more lawyers in your forests than loggers, and when your forests aren’t managed properly,” he said, referring to environmental groups that have sued for block wood projects. “The bureaucrats in Washington and the justice system in this country continue to give us policies that can result in poor air quality like this.”
US forest policy has no bearing on the current smoke crisis, which is the result of hundreds of early season fires in neighboring Canada. The fires, which Canadian officials have described as “unprecedented”, follow a prolonged heat wave in May which broke several temperature records.
In a Twitter post, London-based meteorologist Scott Duncan noted that Canada was “at the epicenter of the planet’s most prominent heat anomaly” last month.
Daines, of course, made no mention of climate change in his comments.
“The bottom line is this: either we manage our forests better, or our forests manage us,” he said.
The same can be said of runaway greenhouse gas emissions, which are driving up global temperatures and worsening the kind of extreme heat waves and dry spells that are setting the stage for greater wildfire activity. . Wildfires are expected to become increasingly severe as climate change worsens.
Another Republican from Montana, Rep. Ryan Zinke, who headed the federal Department of the Interior during the Trump administration, also took the opportunity to pound the pro-logging drum, prompted by a tweet in which Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) chided Republicans.
“Imagine being a Republican climate change denier in Congress – you show up for duty on Capitol Hill today, see the sky filled with smoke…and you still don’t understand that we need bold and immediate action to save our planet? she wrote on Wednesday. “Ridiculous.”
Zinke, who has a long story to downplay climate science and dismiss the link between climate change and wildfires, denounced Jayapal as a “radical extremist” – one of his favorite labels for environmentalists and anyone who opposes climate change. increased logging and thinning of forests.
“Imagine being a radical extremist with a baseless agenda that blocks common sense forest management practices and makes the West live in a shadow of smoke for months out of the year because of it,” Zinke tweeted. “Ridiculous.”
Zinke doubled its position on Thursday, Tweeter“I have no sympathy for DC politicians in the face of smoke. If the liberals don’t allow us to manage the forests, they should face the consequences like we have to in the West.
Wildfire is complex and warrants a nuanced discussion. Many factors are contributing to the increase in fire activity in North America and abroad, from heat waves and drought intensified by climate change to poor forest management and exclusionary policies. fires that have left forests choked with dangerous amounts of vegetation.
But if this week’s debilitating plumes of smoke highlighted anything other than growing fire risk in a warming world, it’s that Republicans see logging and thinning as the only solution to the problem – and the only thing worth discussing.
“There is no doubt that Canada obviously needs to focus on forest management,” Rep. Marc Molinaro (RN.Y.) told “Fox & Friends” Friday morning. “But now is not the time to start lecturing people on the science of climate change.”
No matter how many times Republicans say it, the truth is that wildfires will never be fixed with chainsaws and logging equipment.
“We’ll never get out of this mess,” said Matthew Hurteau, a forest ecologist at the University of New Mexico. tweeted at the end of last year. “We need to invest in restoring fire to our forests and part of that investment includes fixing a broken system that rewards suppression and penalizes science-informed management.”
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.