For nine days, Trump remained silent as wildfires ravaged northern California. For nine days, Trump said nothing about the seven people who have died in the disaster, including two firefighters, or about the more than 1,000 homes that have been destroyed.
On Sunday, Trump finally released his first official White House comments on the fires via Twitter.
But rather than offer comfort to the victims or praise the heroic work of firefighters, Trump decided to spread absurd, insulting lies that blamed the wildfires on California’s own environmental protection policies.
“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized,” Trump said. “It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!”
Trump made similar claims in a second tweet Monday afternoon, suggesting that California Gov. Jerry Brown was preventing the “Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North.”
Trump’s statements left climate experts and California representatives fuming. Trump wasn’t just being callous — he was also absurdly wrong about the facts.
To begin with, no firefighters have reported any issues with having enough water to fight fires in California. It “boggles the mind” that Trump thinks this is the real problem, LeRoy Westerling, a University of California Merced professor specializing in wildfire and climatology, told the San Fransisco Chronicle.
“The ignorance displayed by the president is a serious national crisis,” Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) told Shareblue in an interview.
Garamendi represents an area of California that is being impacted by the wildfires. A former lieutenant governor of California, Garamendi also worked on the Kyoto Protocol treaty on climate change when he served as deputy secretary of the U.S. Interior Department under President Clinton.
Garamendi pointed out that California water policy is not to blame for the fires — climate change is.
“Every day is a fire season day” lately, Garamendi said, especially in southern California. That’s because the state is now entering its “third decade of significant ecological changes as a result of the climate getting hotter.”
As Westerling put it in his interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, a more accurate tweet would have read: “Ongoing warming and accelerated climate change are driving unpredictable increases and extreme fire in California across a wide range of ecosystems.”
Trump’s bizarre claim that California is dumping perfectly good river water “into the Pacific Ocean” echoes a bogus talking point conservatives have used for decades to attack California’s environmental preservation efforts.
The debate over water policy has been a longstanding and complicated one in California — but it has absolutely nothing to do with whether firefighters have enough water, or with the reasons that droughts and wildfires have become so much more common.
Trump’s claims to the contrary were so absurd that environmental experts were left dumbfounded, ThinkProgress reports. Some experts bluntly called out Trump’s claims as “comedically uninformed” and “unmitigated crap.”
Beyond the policy ignorance of Trump’s statement, Garamendi said he was also struck by Trump’s “total lack of empathy” for the women and men fighting the fires, as well as those who have been displaced by the disaster.
Garamendi went on to compliment the community volunteers helping disaster victims, especially those working with the Red Cross, and described the “incredible strength and incredible bravery” of one evacuated woman he met who just returned from the hospital where she found out she was pregnant with triplets. She was unsure if her home was still standing — but Garamendi said he was confident she was going to be fine, thanks to the help of those in her community.
Trump’s recent decision to roll back emissions standards in California was also top of mind for Garamendi, who said he worries that Trump’s ignorance and denial of reality will leave the environment worse off for generations to come.
Trump has also called climate change a hoax — but the thousands of Californians who were forced to evacuate from their homes are facing the real consequences of decades of Republican inaction on climate change.
Published with permission of The American Independent.