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Trump's 'ridiculous' tweet about California wildfires

Wildfires are raging in California. Several people are dead.President Trump's concern?Water....

Posted: Aug 8, 2018 12:02 PM
Updated: Aug 8, 2018 12:02 PM

Wildfires are raging in California. Several people are dead.

President Trump's concern?

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Water.

"California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized," the US President wrote on Twitter. "It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.

"Think of California with plenty of Water," he added. "Nice!"

The problem with his tweets, according to environmental scientists and California water experts, is that there's way more than enough water available to fight the wildfires in California.

Plus, they say, Trump is ignoring the critical issue of climate change, which has raised global temperatures and intensified droughts, making wildfires in the West bigger and more likely.

"This seems to be a confused attempt to conflate the terrible California wildfires with our always contentious debates over water," said Peter Gleick, an environmental scientist and former MacArthur Fellow who is president emeritus of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California. "Part of what he said implied there wasn't enough water to fight the fires in California because of our water policies -- which is complete nonsense. There's plenty of water to fight the fires. We don't even use that much water to fight the fires, but there's plenty. Three of the state's largest bodies of water are very close to these fires. It's just ridiculous."

Gleick called Trump's contention that water is being "diverted" into the ocean "ass-backwards."

"That's a scientific term," he added.

US Rep. Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, tweeted his support for Trump.

"Forests should be managed properly and water should be allowed for farmers to grow food to feed people," Nunes wrote on Twitter in response to Trump's comments about the wildfires. "Thx for supporting the people of San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains!"

Trump's additional comment that trees should be cleared to stop fire from spreading drew less attention.

It's unclear exactly which "bad environmental laws" Trump is referring to. Experts assume he's talking about the age-old fight for water rights in California, which pits farmers in the state's conservative Central Valley against big cities and against environmentalists, who want to see some water left in rivers and streams to support populations of salmon and wildlife.

In July, the California Water Resources Control Board released a final draft plan for water in the San Joaquin River, which brings runoff from the Sierra Nevada toward San Francisco Bay. That river (which I kayaked in its near-entirety for a CNN story in 2014) has been described as a Frankenstein sort of thing: dry in its midsection for many miles because it's been so heavily diverted, mostly by big farms in the Central Valley. When I visited, salmon were being loaded into trucks and driven upstream so they could continue to migrate. (The draft plan deals mostly with water in the lower part of the river).

About 80% of the water used in California goes to agriculture.

At a rally in the Central Valley during the 2016 campaign, Trump suggested that "there is no drought" when the state had been in one for years. ''We're going to solve your water problem," Trump said, according to news reports. "You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they're taking the water and shoving it out to sea."

Then-candidate Trump referenced a "three-inch fish" in that speech, which observers took to mean the Delta smelt, a fish endemic to the San Francisco Estuary that's protected under the Endangered Species Act. During certain times of year, authorities curtail how much water they pump out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in part because of the smelt.

Environmentalists tend to see the Delta smelt as imperiled by agriculture and development.

Although California is liberal territory, several counties in the Central Valley and northern California voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. And many Central Valley farmers are upset about freshwater being "wasted" on rivers. The Central Valley grows a sizable percentage of US fruit and vegetable crops, as well as almonds.

Scientists are perplexed about why Trump is bringing this up now, though -- and what, if anything, it has to do with the active wildfires, including one that has been declared the largest in state history.

His comments about water and fire miss the point, said Margaret S. Torn, an ecologist and biochemist who is a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"My reaction is that it's important for us not to be distracted right now," she said. "The important thing is, there are firefighters whose lives are on the line. There's a huge amount of destruction. And there's unprecedented levels of burning. Those (facts) are real."

Climate change also should be part of the discussion, she and other scientists said.

The scientific consensus is that humans are warming the planet by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas -- putting heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. Hotter and drier weather, which are associated with climate change, make wildfires more likely and help them spread.

According to a 2016 report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that "human-caused climate change contributed to an additional 4.2 million hectares of forest fire area (in the United States) during 1984-2015, nearly doubling the forest fire area expected in its absence." Other factors -- where people live and forest management practices, for example -- influence the severity of wildfires. But researchers are concerned that hotter weather and droughts fueled by climate change play a major role, too.

The Pacific Institute's Gleick says Trump should recognize that. "The links between the fires and climate change are real, and if he wants to comment on things we need to do to deal with these terrible fires, he ought to be thinking about climate change," he said.

Torn, the senior scientist, has been studying wildfire and climate for decades.

"Because I'm a third-generation Californian, it's sad" to watch these fires burn, she said. "I care about the people who are fighting the fires and (who are) losing their homes.

"It's also an eerie and almost uncomfortable feeling as a scientist to have made a study 30 years ago saying climate change will lead to more severe fires that are harder to contain -- and to see that California is experiencing more fires that are harder to contain as the climate is warming."

These are predictions she hoped would not come true.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1560117

Reported Deaths: 20796
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion2118112563
Lake1021301523
Allen964791027
Hamilton75541551
St. Joseph66476761
Elkhart51045634
Vanderburgh50511531
Tippecanoe45721338
Johnson39600527
Hendricks37933463
Porter35132476
Madison30330547
Clark27296331
Vigo26401347
Monroe24100249
LaPorte23921313
Howard23237381
Delaware22453370
Hancock19314220
Bartholomew18980216
Kosciusko18400204
Warrick17733216
Wayne16982303
Floyd16686257
Grant15966300
Morgan15091232
Boone13924138
Dearborn12235113
Shelby12225152
Noble12170142
Henry12027202
Dubois11696152
Marshall11625171
Jackson11111104
Cass10578143
Lawrence10529221
Huntington10523140
DeKalb10482132
Gibson10114127
Montgomery9671144
Harrison9471117
Knox9415125
Whitley902571
Steuben8934105
Putnam8542100
Miami8533135
Clinton849397
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Jefferson8319127
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Ripley7504117
Scott685787
Adams6829103
Daviess6825130
White638184
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Clay628975
Decatur6261121
Jennings619781
Wells6090121
Fayette6054122
Posey580148
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Washington528071
Owen5211100
Fountain493681
Spencer467456
Sullivan462066
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Orange449784
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Rush433941
Jay432564
Perry409155
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Franklin394650
Vermillion370762
Pike334246
Parke331239
Tipton330475
Blackford282255
Pulaski281775
Brown239856
Newton239761
Benton228921
Crawford224932
Switzerland207914
Martin196722
Warren183922
Union178119
Ohio129216
Unassigned0763

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2515949

Reported Deaths: 31987
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin2719422100
Cuyahoga2606673087
Hamilton1758091756
Montgomery1177451651
Summit1089011418
Lucas935321193
Butler83907963
Stark771001431
Lorain64214809
Warren53428489
Mahoning51224930
Lake47591611
Clermont46928452
Delaware41107220
Trumbull39746790
Licking38790416
Medina38646427
Fairfield35828349
Greene34313435
Portage32429366
Clark32361453
Richland29653444
Wood29379301
Allen25875403
Miami24243408
Muskingum23564255
Columbiana23046409
Wayne22093365
Tuscarawas19637428
Marion18616235
Erie18608224
Ashtabula18569362
Scioto18159214
Ross17594260
Pickaway16419181
Hancock16115232
Geauga15511229
Lawrence15094186
Belmont14236248
Union1419584
Huron13908184
Jefferson13656261
Sandusky13268200
Athens12877107
Knox12160201
Seneca12055204
Darke11440202
Ashland11248184
Washington11152172
Auglaize10873147
Crawford10432178
Shelby10402160
Brown10094145
Highland9746151
Fulton9726154
Guernsey9683122
Defiance9567137
Logan9470147
Clinton9428132
Mercer9099112
Madison9032111
Preble8524170
Williams8305138
Putnam8069136
Champaign8040113
Ottawa7971123
Jackson7848121
Perry7514102
Coshocton7411136
Morrow729184
Fayette715992
Pike666689
Hardin6564133
Gallia638891
Adams6227127
Van Wert6065121
Henry602596
Hocking5918105
Wyandot503594
Carroll5009101
Holmes4880167
Paulding426465
Meigs400974
Monroe316468
Harrison299162
Noble296952
Morgan292748
Vinton258646
Unassigned08
Fort Wayne
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Hi: 21° Lo: 3°
Feels Like: -17°
Angola
Cloudy
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Hi: 22° Lo: 9°
Feels Like: -3°
Huntington
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Hi: 19° Lo: -1°
Feels Like: -10°
Decatur
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Hi: 21° Lo: 2°
Feels Like: -17°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
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Hi: 22° Lo: 4°
Feels Like: -12°
Bitterly cold wind chills are expected across the region Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
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