California’s Political Fires

Wildfires continue to ravage California, and the bravery of firefighters trying to prevent damage to homes and property has been inspiring. But this being 2017 in America, the state’s progressive politicians are blaming the fires on humanity’s sins of carbon emission. To the contrary, the conflagrations should be a wake-up call to regulators and politicians who have emphasized acts of climate piety over fire prevention.

. . . Loath to let a natural disaster go to political waste, the California Air Resources Board used the fires to promote a new climate-change “scoping plan” aimed at doubling the rate at which it cuts carbon emissions. The irony is that the emissions from wildfires could negate all of the state’s anticarbon policies.

A 2007 study in the journal Carbon Balance and Management found that California’s wildfires in 2003, which burned more than 750,000 acres, produced the monthly carbon equivalent of about half of the state’s fossil-fuel burning sources. Ditto the state’s September 2006 wildfires. On average the state’s annual emissions from wildfires equal about 6% of those from fossil fuels.

By comparison, California’s cap-and-trade program, low-carbon fuel standard, energy efficiency and renewable mandates resulted in a 0.3% decline in carbon emissions in 2015. In other words, California’s climate acts of penance will likely be overwhelmed by this year’s fires. They also won’t reduce global emissions or prevent a single fire.

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