To Save California from Fire, Burn It

As the state of California slowly returns to the state of Nature, politicians such as Gavin Newsom -- the worst governor in Golden State history, so bad he makes one yearn for the second coming of Gray Davis -- and the arsonists in Sacramento propose to make things worse, not better. Newsom, whose name should be changed to Noisome, blames the outbreak of fires during, um, fire season on "global warming" and "climate change."

And not just are the hots getting hotter -- the wets are getting wetter!

“This is a climate damn emergency,” Newsom said, standing amid the ashes of the North Complex fire in Oroville in Northern California. The fire is one of 28 major blazes currently raging across the state — four of which are among the 10 largest wildfires in state history.

“I’m a little bit exhausted that we have to continue to debate this issue,” Newsom said of climate change, standing in Butte County, the same county that suffered the Camp fire in 2018 — the deadliest in state history — only to face massive fires again this year.

“The debate is over on climate change,” Newsom added. “Just come to the state of California.”

Well, governor, I've lived in California multiple times in my life, including growing up in San Diego, working as a reporter and critic in San Francisco, and writing in Hollywood. I love California -- or at least what it used to be. I knew California -- and your state ain't no California any more. But that's what happens when the same few interlocking wealthy families control the state's destiny for far too long: it becomes Mexico, ruled by aristocrats and cauldillos as they punish the peasants for their penury.

The fact is, the current wildfires are not, as the Huffington Post would have it, "among the largest wildfires in state history." Maybe in recorded state history, but that doesn't go back very far. Bjorn Lomborg, the "Skeptical Environmenalist," has a few words for the governor:

The massive fires raging in California are being blamed squarely on climate change. Alongside ominous photographs of orange skies, the front page of the Sunday Los Angeles Times blared: “California’s Climate Apocalypse.” Golden State Gov. Gavin Newsom says the cause is climate change. Anyone who thinks differently, he insists, is in denial.

The governor is right that climate change is real, man-made and something we need to deal with smartly. But the claim that the fires are caused by climate change is grossly misleading. To understand why, it helps to know that California wildfires used to be much bigger. This past decade, California has seen an average burnt area of 775,000 acres. Before 1800, however, California typically saw between 4.4 and 11.9 million acres burn every year.

In other words, up to 12 percent of the entire area of the state — had its modern boundaries existed in the 18th century — burned every year. This all changed after 1900, when fire suppression became the norm, and fire declined precipitously. In the last half of the 20th century, only about 250,000 acres burned annually.

But because most fires were stopped early, this left ever more unburnt fuel in the forests. According to one estimate, there is now five times more wood-fuel debris in Californian forests than before Europeans arrived. Californian fires are slowly coming back to their prehistoric state because of the enormous excess fuel load. Putting up solar panels and using biofuels will be costly but do virtually nothing to fix this problem. Prescribed burns will.

Ah, but the Left -- which systematically discourages the study of history -- believes (as did the French revolutionaries and the Soviet communists) -- that the world began anew with them. As far as the modern California Left is concerned, the Golden State sprang into being fully formed, like Athena from the brow of Zeus. They never give a thought to the white male easterners and midwesterners who came out west and made the desert bloom, who dammed the Sierra lakes and rivers, tamed the Colorado River, built the beautiful neighborhoods of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and most of all, learned to prevent forest fires via brush clearing and controlled burns (so, by the way, did the Indians).

That couldn't stand -- why, didn't they know that managing the fire threat was inflicting pain on Mother Gaia? The Left is nothing if not superstitious and anthropomorphic, and in the guise of "environmentalism" is hurtling the state back to the stone age.

Here's Michael Shellenberger, who like Lomborg believes that the warming trend is in part attributable to human activity, giving the governor a meteorological lesson. Please watch the video:

The climate hysterics don't want to hear this, of course. It's critical to their view of the world to believe in the innate evil of mankind, the better to salve their consciences as they punish their fellow citizens with ever higher taxes to appease the angry climate gods who do not, in fact, exist. Of such delusions are the ruination of once-great states made.

In Praise of Climate Practicality

In the last few months we’ve seen an apparent surge in what is called, according to taste, either climate skepticism or climate denial.

Producer Michael Moore and director Jeff Gibbs distributed their movie Planet of the Humans free to millions of internet viewers until it was removed by YouTube.

Environmental activist Michael Shellenberger published his book, Apocalypse Never, which was in effect an apology to his followers and earlier readers for greatly exaggerating the dangers of "climate change" (aka global warming) and frightening everyone. Danish economist and public intellectual Bjorn Lomborg, by now a thirty-year veteran of the climate wars, is currently on tour to publicize his latest book, False Alarm, which argues that a sensible cost-benefit analysis of climate policy means the world should rely more on adapting to it and less on resisting (in the jargon “mitigating”) it.

And Anglo-Hungarian sociologist Frank Furedi has just published How Fear Works on the theme that modern society terrorizes itself with fears because it has lost earlier moral values that allowed it to cope with uncertainties about the future.

All four works have been well publicized, getting criticism as well as praise, but they are all very different works. Moore and Gibbs are passionate believers in the risks and imminence of global warming, stationed as they are at the left extreme of the alarmism-denial spectrum. Shellenberger and Lomborg both accept that climate change is real but believe it to be a more manageable problem than  the U.N., most governments, and the environmentalism movement claim. And Furedi’s book is not specifically about climate change at all, but cites how it has become one of several semi-apocalyptic fears about a frightening future.

The net effect of all four together is to make us reconsider how we should think about climate change and how we classify those who think, argue, and write about it. For the choice between alarmists and deniers is a false one, or at the very least a greatly exaggerated.

Moore and Gibbs, far from being climate deniers, are skeptical only about the theory that we can escape from doom by mass switching from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy. They regard the case for “renewables” as both an intellectual delusion, since they cannot possibly replace sustain the present level of world population or anything like it, and as a capitalist tactic to divert environmental concern into money-making schemes financed in part by government subsidies. Their solution to the problem is a drastic reduction in world population which, however, they give no strategy for achieving (understandably, you may think.)

“Climate alarmism” does not seek to be an unfair description of this view.

But what about climate denialism? Any fair-minded look at Shellenberger and Lomborg establishes that they can’t reasonably be described as “climate deniers” on the opposite extreme of the spectrum since they both devote a great deal of attention to how to cope with what they treat as a serious problem for the world. A quick and easy introduction to this approach is available online in Dr. Lomborg’s address earlier this year to the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, Australia.

To over-simplify it brutally, however, Lomborg’s argument is that climate change is real, and man-made, and serious; but it’s not an insuperable problem and many of its symptoms such as drought are getting better; our current overwhelming (and very expensive) stress on cutting carbon emissions isn’t working—they’re rising; and we can adapt to climate change (e.g., as the Dutch have historically done by building dykes and actually extending their territory).

Lomborg is not that out of line with the conventional and official views. If you look at the forecasts of President Obama’s scientific panel on climate change, for instance, it claims that “droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century.” Or the U.N.’s IPCC scientists? “There is low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought.” And the same is true for floods, hurricanes, and (of particular concern to Australians) wildfires. These long-term trends contradict both newspaper headlines and the statements of politicians, but they’re what the Science tells us.

As the CIS’s summary of Lomborg’s big picture says: “The UN’s best estimate of the costs of unmitigated global warming by the end of the century is about 4% of global GDP. This is a problem, not an emergency . . . For most of the world's 7.5 billion people, however, climate change comes far down the list of priorities when faced with infant mortality from easily curable diseases and malnutrition, suffering from poor education and low energy access.”

And tackling those problems--along with proposing measures to adapt sensibly to climate, which people will do anyway—is the work that Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center has pioneered. Again, it’s an exaggeration to describe that approach as climate skepticism, let alone climate denialism. A fairer term would be climate practicality.

But practicality gets lost in atmospheres of panic and fear—and fear-mongering. That’s the message of Furedi’s book, and if there had been any lack of evidence to support his arguments, an excess of it has been provided in the last three months by the thrashing about of the scientists in their various solutions to the Covid pandemic. Their record on the usefulness of masks alone—first denying their utility, then recommending them, and finally making them mandatory—has shown that we can’t rely on even the most expert of human beings to provide both dispassionate and truthful advice in circumstances of fear. And when the public realizes that, it has to confront the truth that it has reposed its trust in an Authority it has exaggerated—and that only makes the panic worse.

The hopeful outcome is that we’ll learn from this; that in dealing with the threats of climate change, our best approach would be to forget labels like "climate denier," make a fair accounting of the problems, and set about tackling them practically. That can’t make matters worse, it may make them better, and in any case there’s no practical alternative.

And, finally, there really are such people as “climate deniers” who argue such points as that the models predicting climate disasters have not been confirmed by the time that the dates of the predicted disasters arrive (and are surpassed.) The Maldives, for instance, have not sunk beneath the sea and show no signs of doing so.

That said, climate deniers are a relatively small sub-set of those interested in climate policy. They have scored some important successes, but they have zero influence on the policies of governments and the U.N. And the claim that anyone who expresses skepticism on any point of climatist orthodoxy is simply a strategy by climate alarmists to prevent any serious discussion of climate policies.

And the more that strategy succeeds, the more likely it is that bad policies will continue and cost trillions of dollars without seriously addressing the real but manageable problems that climate change does bring.

'Climate Change' Hysterics Seeing the Lights

One by one, prominent members of the Doomsday Cult of Climate Annihilation are beginning to defect to the side of reason and rationality. First came filmmaker Michael Moore and his heretical movie, Planet of the Humans, which castigated the "environmental movement" for selling out to corporate America. Next up was Michael Shellenberger, whose new book,  Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, is currently setting the kat among the klimate konformist pigeons by daring to argue that -- hold on to your Greta baseball caps! -- in fact, we're not all going to die and that there is a sane alternative to Thunbergianism. Among his findings:

I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism. In reality, the above facts come from the best-available scientific studies, including those conducted by or accepted by the IPCC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other leading scientific bodies.

Shellenberger made these points in a piece he wrote the other day for Forbes... which of course yanked it from its website within hours, thus proving Moore's point about corporate hijacking of climate alarmism. So he reposted it on the Australian-based website, Quillette; have a look for yourself:

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.

In the final three chapters of Apocalypse Never I expose the financial, political, and ideological motivations. Environmental groups have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests. Groups motivated by anti-humanist beliefs forced the World Bank to stop trying to end poverty and instead make poverty “sustainable.” And status anxiety, depression, and hostility to modern civilization are behind much of the alarmism.

Shellenberger calls out the impractical Ludditism of the "Green Movement" Neanderthals, and offers policy recommendation that will turn the Greenies purple with rage, including a defense of clean nuclear energy:

Once you realize just how badly misinformed we have been, often by people with plainly unsavory or unhealthy motivations, it is hard not to feel duped.

Clean energy or Green energy? Your choice.

Well, as Barnum said, there's a sucker born every minute, including some very famous ones, among them chimp conservationist Jane Goodall, 86, who's moved on from general monkeyshines to weighty issue of climate, diet, the coronavirus and -- of course -- Why Everything Now Must Change:

With a background in primatology, Jane Goodall became well known in the 1960s through films about her work studying chimpanzees in Tanzania. She famously gave the animals human names. Her discovery that chimps in Tanzania and elsewhere were threatened by habitat destruction due to human activity informed her view about the interdependency of the natural world. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977, and it's now a leading voice for nature conservation.

Dr Goodall’s analysis of COVID-19 stays true to her beliefs. Speaking at an online event held by the group Compassion in World Farming, Goodall said our global food production system is in need of urgent reform. “Our disrespect for wild animals and our disrespect for farmed animals has created this situation where disease can spill over to infect human beings. We have come to a turning point in our relationship with the natural world.”

Talk about hostility to modern civilization: here we are: after more than half a century of the relentless battering of Western civilization by the likes of the Frankfurt School and their bastard children in academe, there are suckers aplenty in the West, who will go to their graves convinced that everything modern man has done to improve his life is wrong and bad, and that a prelapsarian state of nature is the way forward. Such is the suicide cult of Leftism as articulated by Rousseau and then passed down by Marx and Marcuse.

And yet, some common sense is beginning to reassert itself. In addition to Shellenberger, the Danish author and climate-hysteria skeptic, Bjorn Lomborg, the "skeptical environmentalist," has a new book out as well, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet. As Richard Trzupek, an environmental consultant and analyst at the Heartland Institute, notes in his review:

Lomborg addresses his core mission statement early on: “[W]e’re scaring kids and adults witless, which is not just factually wrong but morally reprehensible. If we don’t say stop, the current, false climate alarm, despite its good intentions, is likely to leave the world much worse off than it could be.”

Everyone knows the meme: “Catastrophic global warming is real and it’s manmade.” It’s a simple statement of the perceived problem, one that would surely earn an “A” in Marketing 101. Whatever else it is, that simple statement is not science. The issue of climate change cannot be explained by any one statement, but must be addressed by answering a series of questions. This is what Lomborg bravely attempts to do in “False Alarm.”

And now along comes a lady with the felecitious sobriquet of Zion Lights, a spokewoman for Britain's lunatic Extinction Rebellion movement. When last seen, she was being memorably eviscerated by the BBC's Andrew Neil in October:

Today, however, she's singing a different tune.

Extinction Rebellion's spokeswoman has quit the protest group to become a nuclear power campaigner. Zion Lights, 36, has left the climate change cause, which brought London to a standstill last year, to join pro-nuke outfit Environmental Progress. The former XR communications head said she had felt ‘duped’ after being surrounded by anti-nuclear campaigners until she read more into the radioactive fuel.

Mother-of-two Zion said: ‘The facts didn't really change, but once I understood them I did change my mind.’ The switch took non-campaigners by surprise given her new role seems entirely at odds with her old position. Zion, who was born in the West Midlands and given her unusual name as a baby, said: ‘I have a long history of campaigning on environmental issues, most recently as a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion UK.

‘Surrounded by anti-nuclear activists, I had allowed fear of radiation, nuclear waste and weapons of mass destruction to creep into my subconscious. I realised I had been duped into anti-science sentiment all this time. Now, I have quit the organisation to take up a position as a campaigner for nuclear power.’

It's easy to laugh, but pay attention to the statement above: I had allowed fear... to creep into my subconscious. Fear is a hallmark of all zealous crackpotism, along with an urgent insistence that the world change right now in order to accommodate what is manifestly a form of mental illness akin to aliens sending you messages through the fillings in your teeth.

The environmentalist Left needs more people like Moore, Shellenberger, and Lights, struggling out the darkness of their former irrational anxieties and obsessions and joining the community of the sensible, and fewer deluded children like poor exploited Greta, shamelessly manipulated by the "movement" for malicious ends.

After all, who doesn't want the best for Mother Earth? There are many paths to conservation and civilization. We need not let fear prevent us from seeing the solution, and the light.