Trump and Biden Debate Climate Change, the Green New Deal, and the Paris Accord
Last night presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace asked President Trump, “You believe that human pollution, gas, greenhouse gas emissions contribute to the global warming of this planet?” Trump replied, “I think a lot of things do, but I think to an extent, yes. I think to an extent, yes, but I also think we have to do better management of our forest.”
The president added, “Every year I get the call. California’s burning, California’s burning. If that was cleaned, if that were, if you had forest management, good forest management, you wouldn’t be getting those calls.” As it happens, the federal government, which the president oversees, owns 57 percent of California’s forests, whereas state and local governments own around 3 percent. (The rest is in private hands.)
In the Trump administration’s latest budget request, the U.S. Forest Service asks for no funding for forest management practices such as prescribed burning or timber salvage. The agency says it has a backlog of 80 million acres in need of active management but plans to reduce fuel loads using current budget allocations on just over 1 million acres in 2021. While the president rightly complains about poor forest management, his administration is doing nothing to significantly reduce future wildfire risks on federal forest lands.
The president’s fleeting acknowledgment that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to climate change is a shift in tone at least from the president’s response during a briefing on California’s fires in Sacramento earlier this month. At that briefing, California’s Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot urged the president to “recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests.” Trump responded, “It will start getting cooler, just you watch.” Crowfoot countered that he wished the science agreed with the president. Trump replied, “I don’t think science knows, actually.”
Of course, there is no contradiction between the two concerns of climate change and poor forest management. Man-made greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, are responsible for most of the recent rise in the average temperature of the planet. And yes, decades of bad federal government forest management have contributed to the recent rising annual trend in burnt area in the western U.S. Rising temperatures and lengthier droughts in California are increasing the fire danger of badly managed overgrown federal forests in that state.
As an example of his commitment to addressing the problems of climate change, Trump declared, “We’re planting a billion trees, the Billion Tree Project and it’s very exciting for a lot of people.” The president did promise in his latest State of the Union speech that the “United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, an ambitious effort to bring together government and private sector to plant new trees in America and all around the world.” In fact, no trees, much less a billion, have so far been planted at the behest of the Trump administration. The only activity so far is an EPA press release and a moribund bill in Congress.
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