The massive, deadly wildfires in America’s West are caused by climate change,” smirks California governor Gavin Newsom. In reality, bad forest management and excessive regulation are bigger causes.
“All of this catastrophizing around climate change is a huge distraction,” says Mike Shellenberger, an environmentalist once named a “Hero of the Environment” by Time Magazine. “Climate change is real,” he says, but “it’s not the end of the world. It’s not our most serious environmental problem.” California warmed 3 degrees over the last half-century, but Shellenberger notes: “You could’ve had this amount of warming and not had these fires. The reason we know that is because the forests that were well-managed have survived the megafires.” Well managed forests like the one at Shaver Lake, California, maintained by Southern California Edison, have survived the blazes. In that forest, the utility company conducted “prescribed burns” to get rid of tinder that creates big out-of-control fires, and they created “fire breaks” — swaths of forest that are made sparse, so big fires die off when they hit them.