“If you do not believe in science,” Newsom said bluntly while standing in the ashes of what once was a Butte County forest, “I hope you believe observed reality.”
“The hots are getting a lot hotter and the wets are getting a lot wetter,” he observed. “The science is absolute. The data is self evident.”
“We have to own that reality and we have to own the response to that reality,” said the governor. Last year by this time, 118,000 acres had burned, he observed. This year, it’s over 3 million acres charred. The state is currently battling five of the 20 most destructive fires in the last century, he reported.
Tiny California Town Leveled By
Extreme weather conditions has caused an increase in acreage for the #CreekFire, which has now grown to be the 16th largest wildfire in California history. 5 of the Top 20 largest wildfires in California History have occurred in 2020. Visit https://t.co/6s2QmGvwFi for more. pic.twitter.com/EENY1UCJql
— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) September 11, 2020
Newsom called these examples of how the state has been hit by the “smash mouth of reality.”
“The debate is over in terms of climate change,” said Newsom. “If you don’t believe that, just come to the state of California.”
As a result the governor announced, “We’re gonna have to fast-track our efforts in terms of meeting our [clean energy] goals much sooner.” He said he has asked key administration officials to “go down that list [of climate change initiatives] and to dust off our current processes and accelerate them across the board.”
Key among these would be to “adapt strategies to get more electric vehicles out on the street.” The state’s current goal of getting to 100% clean energy by midcentury will be “too late,” he said.
For those who worry about the economic consequences of such initiatives, “just ask the people here in Butte County,” Newsom said, noting it cost “$2 billion just to clean up the debris of the Camp Fire” in 2018.
“You want to know the cheapest way to deal with this?” asked the Governor. “It is to accelerate our low carbon strategies.”
Responding to “people that want to roll back vehicle emissions standards,” Newsom said “that’s beyond the pale of comprehension.”
That, said the governor, is “BS that’s being spewed by a small group of people who adhere to a 19th century framework. You can exhaust yourself with your ideological BS. We are not going back to the 19th century.”
As a result, Newsom observed, “We’re involved in dozens and dozens of lawsuits against an administration that doesn’t believe the same way we do. We’ve won and we will keep winning. And we will prevail.”
“I’m very proud of California’s leadership,” he said, “in the absence of national leadership.”
“California, folks, is America fast forward,” he warned.
Wade Crowfoot, California’s Secretary for Natural Resources explained, “We’re seeing impacts today that we thought we’d see by midcentury”
“I am not going to say that the forest management practices in California over the last 100 years have been ideal,” Newsom admitted, with a nod to President Trump’s frequent criticisms of the state’s work in that area. “Not for one second. But there’s something else going on, not just bad past practices.”
“In the last few weeks alone,” he observed, “we’ve experience the hottest august ever…arguably the hottest temperature ever worldwide, record-breaking temperature in Los Angeles…Fire that we are experiencing [over] 800 miles,” or the length of the state of California.
“That said…we have to do more in terms of proscribed burns,” admitted Newsom. “We do recognize that.”
It should be noted however, that many of the current fires are actually in National Forests which are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, a federal agency. That includes the August Complex Fire which is mostly in the Mendocino National Forest. At 740,000 acres and growing, the August Complex Fire is 60% bigger than any other fire ever recorded in the state.
The governor said that he spoke with President Trump on Thursday and that the state has completed 35 high profile fire-preventative projects that “would have taken 10 years to do before. We’ve done [them] in 15 months. But that’s not just the issue here in California.”
“We’re in the midst of a climate emergency,” declared the governor.
“We can’t just change lightbulbs. We also need to change leadership, and not just on the national level. If people are still in denial and they’re in charge of keeping you safe,” he said, “then they’re not the right people to lead us forward.”
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