Two dozen major fires are raging from Southern California to Washington state at the same time yet another hurricane is bashing the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Fires happen. Hurricanes happen. The worrisome sign for climatologists is the increasing frequency and intensity of these deadly weather events, which are the byproduct of human activities. And the one person who could take action to rein in those activities — President Donald Trump — steadfastly refuses to do so.
Rather, Trump mocks environmental activists and climatologists while pledging policies designed to reverse the meager progress made in the fight to save the planet. The destruction being wrought by nature makes no distinction between Democrats and Republicans. At some point, preferably before their houses are burned down or swept away by winds and flood waters, Republican voters must realize that Trump's policies are worsening the death and destruction wrought by nature.
Though these points have been made repeatedly in the past, they bear repeating as the Nov. 3 election approaches. A vote for Trump is a vote for practices that contribute to climate extremes and increase the potential for worse fires, stronger hurricanes, massive flooding in the Midwest, polar vortex events in winter and record-high summer temperatures.
What's happening in California, Washington and Oregon right now is only nature's opening salvo. The fires have burned an amount of territory greater than the total acreage of Connecticut. Dozens of people have been killed, and the smoke has created such extremely hazardous breathing conditions that residents of Portland, Oregon, are being told not to drive or leave their homes.
"The debate is over around climate change," California Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters. "This is a climate damn emergency. This is real and it's happening."
Newsom is once again having to fend off assertions by Trump that the fires are spreading because California isn't raking its forests properly. He reminded Trump Monday that the federal government owns the overwhelming percentage of forest land there.
Fires certainly feed off such fuel, but the greatest contributor to igniting these blazes is heat and drought. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2005. Record-breaking temperatures and dry conditions along the Pacific coast are combining with seasonal winds to create ever-more disastrous conditions.
The steady warming of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean is fueling larger and more powerful hurricanes. Scientists say greenhouse gas emissions are the primary culprit, yet Trump has promoted policies such as emphasizing coal production and expanded petroleum exploration that would lead to greater burning of fossil fuels and increase the buildup of greenhouse gases.
Like so many other things, Trump could be a cheerleader for alternatives that invigorate the economy while cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. Instead, he mocks global warming, throws paper towels at hurricane victims and suggests Californians pick up a rake.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
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