- - Monday, August 17, 2015


Mother Nature is a cruel mistress. Persistent drought in the West has triggered wildfires that have burned over nearly 6 million acres so far this year. Blaming global warming, or capricious “climate change” — sometimes it’s hot and sometimes it’s cold, and sometimes it rains and sometimes it doesn’t — is tempting for the environmental extremists.

As many as 9 of 10 wildfires are caused by human carelessness, in leaving campfires unattended, careless burning of debris and discarded cigarette butts, according to the Department of the Interior. California fire officials estimate 1 in 5 of the fires that have charred 70,000 acres this summer were deliberately set. Earlier this month, they arrested a woman and charged her with setting 14 roadside blazes around the state, forcing hundreds to evacuate their homes. Malice can outdo natural catastrophe as a source of human misery. Smokey the Bear reminded Americans in years past that “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

President Obama argues that a different kind of bad behavior requires drastic government action. It’s the use of fossil fuels that produces carbon-dioxide emissions, which heat the atmosphere. “The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security,” the president said earlier this month in laying out his Clean Power Plan. “While we can’t say any single weather event is entirely caused by climate change, we’ve seen stronger storms, deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons.” If he’s correct that human progress is turning the world into a tinderbox, everyone who drives (or rides as a passenger in a big black limousine), or abuses the thermostat is as guilty of abusing the environment as the man who flicks a smoldering cigarette into the weeds and bushes.

But the president may not be correct. Global mean temperatures have not risen since January 1997, more than 18 years and seven months ago, according to satellite sensor data cited by the website Climatedepot.com. All the while, carbon-dioxide levels have risen in the atmosphere, casting doubt on the clear connection between human-caused emissions and rising temperatures.

When enduring drought out West and wildfires combine to scorch millions of acres of wilderness, the credulous and the gullible conclude that Mr. Obama’s global warming premise is real and forget last winter’s record-setting cold in the Midwest and Northeast. Frigid winds and unrelenting snow can be a greater threat to life and limb than wildfires in the remote mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Neither fire nor ice can be taken lightly, and the summer sight of families fleeing their homes before a wall of flame and smoke is frightening even at a distance.

Human misbehavior is a culprit in the wildfire epidemic sweeping the West, but the evidence points to careless and malicious handling of flammable materials as the main cause, not human activity that environmentalists insist is overheating the planet. Smokey the Bear has a better understanding of forest fires than the climate hysterics.

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