Flemming: Forest fires and faulty evidence for climate change

By David Flemming

“The growth of raging forest fires is evidence of worsening climate change,” we’re told. But what if that narrative is completely unsupported by the data?

The Union of Concerned Scientists feel comfortable using just about any alarming fact as evidence of climate change. “Since 2015, the United States has experienced, on average, roughly 100 more large wildfires every year than the year before… we’re seeing more wildfires, more acres burned, and longer, more intense fire seasons. Warmer temperatures increase the likelihood that fires will burn more intensely… increased droughts, unusual rain patterns, and insect outbreaks that lead to large stands of dead trees are also connected with climate change—and they all make wildfires more likely.”

The data however, tells a different story. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) focuses on “wildland firefighting” and “share(s) firefighting supplies, equipment, and personnel, which helps ensure efficient and cost-effective incident management.” The NIFC has data going all the way back to 1926. The 7,376,721 acres burned so far in 2020 is unlikely to beat the 10,026,086 burned in 2017.

To spot trends, it helps to look at acres burned over time. From 2010-20, nearly 76 million acres were burned (granted we still have 3 months to go). But from 1930-40 over 417 million acres were burned. That’s more than 5x more than was burned from 2010-20. In fact, more acres were burned every year from 1926-1955 than was burned in 2020. Something tells me any additional acres burned in 2020 is unlikely to reach the levels from 90 years ago. Where was climate change in 1935?

And our friends at the Foundation for Economic Education pointed out that “Texas actually has more forest and higher temperatures than California, but the Lone Star state rarely struggles with fires, perhaps because 95 percent of its land mass is privately owned and these owners act as responsible stewards of the land.” California should consider placing more of its publicly controlled land into private hands to minimize the chance of fires.

Taking a long-term view, Americans have done an admirable job at fighting fires since the mid-1900’s. Some years will be worse than others, but the supposed evidence linking forest fire to climate change is complete bunk.

David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of EAI

7 thoughts on “Flemming: Forest fires and faulty evidence for climate change

  1. What’s the story of global warming due to not burning oil or cow’s dung being an issue but the way agri business is tilling the land? If Ag would do no till, rotate crops and stop all the weed killing compounds the carbon would be used in growing plants instead of floating about in the atmosphere. The changes would reduce the rising temperature during the day and hold more heat at night, the rain would be more local and the list goes on. Also the government agriculture “welfare” would be reduced and the farmers would make more dollars per acre. Does anyone have any information on the way this could work out?

  2. Those who are pushing the “Global Warming” message are using it to further control the people, homeowners, private businesses, transportation, construction, schools, private land, the fossil fuel industry and more. Why?
    They may have an interest in the “green energy” business environment which could fill their wallets, or they might just want more government control over the people and businesses..
    Vermont has one of the two lowest “carbon footprints” in the nation. Our forests absorb any carbon in the atmosphere. Guess what folks`! We have Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter seasons. The climate changes from season to season. It is nature at work.
    We need to stop Vermont government from forcing taxpayers to subsidize electric cars , repairs on
    privately owned buildings . We need less government and more individual freedom . Maybe then our taxes and fees will lessen as government gets out of our private lives. “Global Warming” is a hoax !

    • Linda,
      Vermont forests absorb less than 50% of Vermont Gross Emissions of about 10 million metric ton, per recent VT-ANR reports.

      A few years ago, various Vermont entities were claiming 100%, until some people pointed out the incorrect methodology used.

      After repeatedly informing VT-ANR, it finally used the EPA method, which is in line with the IPCC method, which led to the 50%.

      Old information never has a total death

  3. Another fact being overlooked by the climate whiners who claims CA, WA fires are caused
    by gorebull warming would be the fact that Canada is seeing a marked DECREES in
    the number of fires their having out west this year..
    Why does gorebull warming stop at the border?? Does Trudeau have a secret pact
    with Gaia ?? Or are they just using the warming for an excuse to do nothing ???

  4. It is remarkable and a mystery so much acreage was burning during the depression years.
    There were about 125 million people then, about 325 million now.

    The graph show an increase during 2000 – 2020, compared to 1960 – 2000.

    • There was a drought during the depression years with increased fires.
      No one was blaming GLOBAL WARMING for the drought, or the fires, during the depression

      That drought was a MAJOR cause of the depression.

      At present, there is a drought in California, which is causing increased fires.
      Other causes are careless humans, arson, and sparking from power lines.

      Fires can be mitigated by building fire breaks that prevent spreading of fires.

      Droughts come and go.
      They are beyond human control

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