Fires far worse last century

The fires ravaging California have caused heart-rending devastation.  Forty-one people have lost their lives and damages are now estimated to top $3 billion.

Never ones to let a “serious crisis go to waste,” Green pressure groups are shamelessly attributing the fires to global warming and claiming that this year’s fires ravaged the largest area ever recorded.

“But that is because the National Interagency Fire Center curiously – and somewhat conveniently – only shows the annual burnt area back to 1960, when fire suppression indeed was going strong, and hence we had some of the lowest amounts of burnt forests ever,” explains Bjørn Lomborg, President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

“Yet, the official historical data of the United States tells a different story. Look at the Historical Statistics of the United States – Colonial Times to 1970,  There we have statistics for area burnt since 1926 and up to 1970. Reassuringly, the data for 1960-1970 ‘completely overlap.’  This is the same data series.”  Professor Lomborg shared the graph above.

Global warming campaigners want us to believe that history started yesterday; the better for them to “cherry pick” the starting point of a data series to create the false impression that natural phenomena are worse today than in the past.  Their claims don’t survive fact checking.

Senior Policy Analyst Bonner Cohen reminds us at that humans did indeed have a hand in making the California wildfires worse, but not because we drive cars or use electricity.  Recent years have seen bad forest management.  Banning responsible harvesting of timber has resulted in overgrown forests laden with dead trees and brush.  Fire breaks are insufficient and fire fighting policy inadequate.

Moreover, Cohen explains, “restrictive zoning laws in cities like San Francisco and San Jose have put home prices out of reach for people of upper-middle, middle, and lower income. Unable to afford homes in high-end urban areas, many people are forced to live in distant suburbs, which puts them closer to areas where fire are likely to break out.”

Let us stand with the people of California in word and deed.  Work for better forest management to limit future damage, and arm ourselves with the facts that expose those exploiting this tragedy to push the global warming narrative as the propagandists they are.

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About the Author: Craig Rucker

Craig Rucker is president and co-founder of CFACT.

  1. gunsmithkat

    For really disastrous fires look up the “Tillamook Burn”. Estimates are that nearly 1/6 of the worlds standing timber was destroyed.

    • Tatanka

      The years will show if you go to the Climate Depot site and instead of clicking on the link, right click and just view the image. It looks like the root data was compiled from a variety of sources, which I have not checked.

  2. Politician

    In those earlier years population was sparse, hence many left to burn themselves out. Furthered by primative fire fighting technology. No large tanker aircraft, limited capabilities of bulldozers, fire pumps, etc.

  3. Randal O'Toole

    While I agree with you that fires today are not exceptional, the numbers in your graph are wrong. Before WWII, the Forest Service opposed prescribed burning, which was routinely practiced by private landowners in the South. So the Forest Service recorded all acres of prescribed burns as wildfires. Today, there is no way to tell which acres were actually wildfires and which were prescribed. So all numbers before 1940 or so are suspect. Even with that, a case can be made that more acres burned in the 1930s than any decade since, but the case is imperfect.

    • Even if we discount the years before 1940 today’s fires are nowhere near what was experienced in the 1940s, so the point still stands. And the larger point, that whoever presented this data series deliberately cherry picked a point to support a FALSE claim about “global warming” causing more, worse, or more worse wildfires, is what matters.

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