‘Ideological BS’: Amid ashes, governor fires away on climate change
Sacramento: California Governor Gavin Newsom has offered some of his most impassioned comments on climate change, denouncing the “ideological BS” of those who deny the danger and vowing to accelerate the state's already ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gasses.
Newsom spoke against a backdrop of ghost-like trees and ground covered in snow-like grey ash left by the deadliest of the record-breaking fires that have charred huge swaths of California in recent weeks.
California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks to reporters after touring fire-affected areas outside Oroville on Friday.Credit:AP
“The data is self-evident, the experience that we have in the state of California just underscoring the reality of the ravages of climate change,” he said. “Mother Nature is physics, biology and chemistry. She bats last and she bats 1000. That’s the reality we're facing, the smash mouth reality — this perfect storm. The debate is over around climate change."
California had its hottest August, with world-record-setting heat in Death Valley. It had 14,000 dry lightning strikes that set off hundreds of fires, some that combined into creating five of the 10 largest fires in the state's recorded history. And it has had back-to-back heat waves.
The death toll from the siege of West Coast fires also in Washington and Oregon states that began last month jumped to 24 on Saturday (AEST) after seven people were reported killed in mountains north of Sacramento, California. More than 3900 homes and others structures have burnt in California alone, the state fire authority reported.
On Friday search teams entered small Oregon communities already burnt and authorities prepared for possible "mass casualty events". Five towns were reportedly destroyed.
Derek Trenton and Shawna Haptonstall look at the ruins of Derek’s parents home in Talent, Oregon as wildfires devastate the region.Credit:AP
Molalla, 40 km south of downtown Portland, was an ash-covered ghost town after its more than 9000 residents were told to evacuate, with only 30 refusing to leave, the city's fire department said. The logging town was on the front line of a vast evacuation zone stretching north to within 4.8 km of downtown Portland.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown told a press conference that 40,000 people were under mandatory evacuation alerts. Some 500,000 residents were under evacuation advisories of either red "GO!", warnings to leave homes immediately, yellow "BE SET" warnings to leave at a moment's notice, or green "BE READY" alerts, she said.
A drop in winds, higher moisture levels and forecast rain were expected to help firefighters going into the weekend in towns like Molalla, at the mercy of wind strength and direction after two of Oregon's largest wildfires merged into one.
Two Republican state lawmakers who represent the Northern California region where Newsom spoke countered that the governor was using climate change as an excuse for years of failed policies by fellow Democrats who control nearly all aspects of California government.
The state's former governor, Jerry Brown, who championed combating climate change, said the massive fires in the West may get more people thinking about the role of climate change “as they cough and choke on this terrible air.”
But he said it wouldn't change the minds of those who view global warming as fiction.
“This is not enough,” he said. “But don’t worry, we’re going to have this over and over, with hurricanes, with flooding of subways in places in Florida and New Orleans and Texas," he said.
“The weather is changing, and human beings can’t snap their fingers and tell the weather: ‘Don’t change,'" said Brown, who left office last year and now serves as chairman of the California-China Climate Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. “The weather is changing because of the chemicals that human beings are putting into the air all over the world.”
Newsom was more blunt, saying “unless we get our act together on climate change, unless we disabuse ourselves of all the BS that’s being spewed by a very small group of people," then time to take action will be lost.
Republican state Senator Jim Nielsen and local councillor James Gallagher countered that the cause of recent devastating wildfires and electricity blackouts was "decades of bad policy enacted by Democrats, not climate change."
“The excuse of climate change cannot be used to deflect from the fundamental failure to address the fuels build-up in our forests that are the cause of these devastating fires," they said in a statement. “These same misguided policy decisions have led to rolling blackouts and an energy grid that is falling apart.”
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