“You gotta take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important... I was with the President of Finland... he called it a forest nation and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don’t have any problem.” President Donald Trump, Nov. 17, 2018
The West is experiencing massive wildfires with record high temperatures. The Rockies and Northern Plains are being buried by blizzards. The South and Northeast are being hit by floods, tornadoes and hurricanes. These weather phenomena are not unusual, but they are increasing in duration, number and strength. This is one result of global warming; those who refuse to see that are being willfully and dangerously ignorant.
I’ve read conservative talking points claiming that “global warming” wasn’t working as a catchphrase, so people changed it to “extreme climate change.” Again, ignorance rears its ugly head. These phrases actually go together.
Global warming is caused by many things. Since the Industrial Revolution began and humans started burning fossil fuels in abundance, the earth has been warming much faster than before. This warming then results in climate change. The warmer the earth, the more extreme the climate change. These are not two names for the same thing. They are basically cause and effect.
Republicans want to ignore this because they have apparently developed an aversion to scientific facts. If something isn’t happening before their eyes, there’s no problem. Like a baby playing peek-a-boo, if I can’t see it, it’s not real.
That leads to stunts such as when Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., brought a snowball into the Senate chambers in 2015 and claimed this proved global warming is a hoax. Republicans forget that half the earth is south of the equator.
While America experiences record snowfalls, Australia experiences record heat waves and massive wildfires, more than 130 this fall alone. A Fox News report on Sept. 10 said the fires were “raging like a flamethrower.” Extreme climate change affects everyone on the planet.
Trump wants to blame the horrendous California fires on the governor, even though the federal government manages 57 percent of California’s forest land; the state manages 3 percent. In a Nov. 18, 2018, Fox News Sunday interview, Trump said, “Maybe (climate change) contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management... When I was in a certain state, I won’t say which, the governor said, ‘You know, we’ve tested it. We clean out areas and we actually set the fire just to see, we lose almost nothing, we can put it out right away.’”
As usual, Trump spun a lie out of thin air to pretend he knows what he is talking about. If this had really happened, a responsible president would have asked that governor to talk to the leaders of the western states, sharing ideas about how to prevent wildfires. Since this governor is imaginary, Trump can’t do that.
The ongoing fires in the West are being pushed by hurricane force winds. Raking won’t help that. Years of extreme drought in Nevada and California have weakened and killed millions of trees, making them very vulnerable to fires. Raking won’t help that. Fires are happening in developed areas, where people live with landscaped yards. Raking won’t help that. Record-breaking heat has created conditions that enable more fires to erupt. Raking won’t help that.
A January 2019 report by the U.S. Department of Defense said, “More than two-thirds of the military’s operationally critical installations are threatened by climate change” (Military Times, Jan. 18, 2019). Climate change consequences such as the frequent flooding at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., the world’s biggest naval base, endanger our national security. Raking won’t help that.
These weather events are causing multiple injuries and deaths, and billions of dollars of damage. People’s lives are being destroyed. Raking won’t help that.
President Sauli Niinistö of Finland did talk with Trump on Nov.11, 2018, about forests. He said Finland monitors its forests carefully, but the only raking he sees is his own yard. The Finnish people responded to Trump’s ludicrous comments on social media with the hashtag #rakenews, mocking Trump as the ignorant man he is.
Global warming isn’t a laughing matter. It is literally deadly serious. Only Trump could take a life-and-death issue and have the world laugh at us. Raking the forests isn’t an answer. There are real solutions, but if we don’t start acting soon, we will be burned and drowned out of existence, and it won’t be a joke.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.