Memo to California Governor Newsom: Why does climate change stop at the Canadian border?

In the closing weeks of summer, wildfires across the West scorched a total land area almost the size of New Jersey. In Oregon alone, over 400,000 people are on evacuation alert. California's Governor Newsom blames global warming.

September 12, 2020  Commentary by Jerry Carlson — While standing on a charred hillside in his home state, Governor Newsom told TV newspersons: “The debate is over around climate change. Just come to the state of California. Observe it with your own eyes.” Newsom is so fixed on climate change that he has encouraged spending thousands of tax dollars painting asphalt city streets in a light-reflective shade.

But when you look at the satellite image below which shows accumulated North American fires, you may ask: Why does the frequency of Western forest wildfires stop abruptly at the Canadian border? What's happening in Canada's forests, which are outside the historic fire-suppression policies of Smokey the Bear and the U.S. Forest Service?

Could there be another approach to managing Western wildfires — other than solar panels and wind turbines? 

A practical view emerges in an editorial by Holman W. Jenkins Jr. in the Sept. 11 Wall Street Journal. Astoundingly, he found and quoted a relevant view in the rival New York Times: "A century of federal policy to aggressively extinguish all wildfires rather than letting some burn at low levels, an approach now seen as misguided, has left forests with plenty of fuel for especially destructive blazes.”

Jenkins implies that Governor Newsom may be the only person "who does not understand that climate policy is not an answer to California’s wildfire crisis."

California has always had a near-desert climate. That's why its lush valleys are irrigated. Also, there's almost as much forested land across the Western states as there was in 1850 — about 375 million acres. The difference today is that people are building homes in the brushy hillsides and tall timber. Brushy undergrowth accumulates as fuel. Utility firms are powering those homes with high-voltage lines which arc, ignite fires and lead to liabilities that bankrupted Pacific Gas and Electric. 

Jenkins offers a cheeky perspective: "A bit of history: It’s been nearly 32 years since climate change became a mainstream political cause.

"In the decades that followed ... climate politics became institutionalized. Institutionalized means interest groups and business lobbies becoming self-sustaining based on the money that climate fears generate. A cynic might note that during this time the world’s greenhouse emissions rose more steeply than ever. Problems that become institutionalized aren’t solved. They become a multigenerational meal ticket by not being solved."

My view during those 32 years is this:  Presuming that politicians can manage climate change by managing carbon dioxide is a scientific farce. And a colossal perversion of public and private resources. Climates have changed globally and constantly, eons before the Industrial Age. Data on climate and carbon dioxide cycles for two million years have been measured from isotopes in cores drilled from Antarctic ice layers. The data shows that temperature cycles roughly correlate with carbon dioxide cycles. However, air temperatures have often warmed before atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose.

Clean air is great; America has done a lot to clean up atmospheric toxins. But carbon dioxide is not toxic. It's an essential element for crop growth. Nearly half of your crops are composed of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

You can monitor the world's wildfires at the website https://www.esri.com/en-us/disaster-response/disasters/wildfires. That's the source of the current image below. Should you want to see some real wildfire activity, visit this site and mouse around to view the Amazon Basin in Brazil. People are starting most of those fires in Brazil to clear farmland. Some Westerners suspect arsonists are responsible for at least a few of the wildfires in California and Oregon. Mainstream reporters are tamping down those rumors, although some suspects have been arrested. Here's one example.

For a spectacular satellite view of how fires have imposed a carbon monoxide load in the Western atmosphere, see NOAA's live global imagery of surface winds and surface carbon monoxide at this link. (click on the word "earth" at the lower left of the screen to select different data presentations.)

With the globe on your screen, you can also click and hold down your mouse to rotate the earth and see China's carbon monoxide load. It's easy to see why one U.S. ag consultant, Bob Streit, returned from Beijing in 2014 and described China's atmosphere "like walking downwind from a burning pile of old tires." 

In southwest Africa, Angola and Congo are almost as monoxide-polluted as China.