Trump’s recent tweet about the California wildfires is scapegoating at its finest
President Donald Trump is not known for his environmentalism. The 45th president has routinely denied that climate change exists, and his policies often pose a threat to nature. In a recent tweet, Trump attempted to blame environmentalists for natural disasters, falsely claiming that the latest wildfires to burn through California were caused by “bad environmental laws.”
As CNN reports, California has been battling at least 17 wildfires for the past two weeks. As of today, August 6th, the largest blaze, the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, has become the second-largest fire in California history, after 2017’s Thomas Fire.
Yesterday, August 5th, CNBC reported that the president declared the fire a major disaster. But later that same day, the president appeared to blame the state’s strict environmental regulations for the crisis, tweeting that California was diverting water into the ocean that could otherwise be used to fight fires.
"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," he tweeted. "It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!"
Frankly, Trump’s claims don’t make much sense. As the Los Angeles Times‘ Michael Hiltzik points out, Republicans in California’s Central Valley have been lobbying for access to more irrigation water, and it’s possible that Trump was trying to shoehorn this unrelated issue into the conversation about wildfires.
Additionally, when the San Francisco Chronicle asked if firefighters were facing a shortage of water, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Lynette Round told the paper, “Not that I’m aware of, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
LeRoy Westerling, co-director of the Center for Climate Communications at University of California Merced, pointed out in a tweet that the “tree clearing” mentioned by Trump would be of no use in the case of a brush fire.
Moreover, there’s evidence that climate change, not “bad environmental laws” is more likely to cause wildfires. Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb told The Weather Channel that while the link has not been solidified, there is growing evidence that higher temperatures could lead to more fires.
The Mendocino Complex Fire and the other wildfires currently blazing through California are major disasters, and blaming environmental laws—that help communities in the long run—isn’t helping anyone.