The scandal-ridden Interior Secretary explicitly denied the science of climate change in a Thursday morning interview on Fox Business, saying it’s “still being disputed” whether humans are directly causing global warming—a dispute at this point limited to American politics. Scientists have been warning about human-caused climate change since at least the year 1912. Today, the international scientific community states with 95 percent confidence that humans are the main, direct cause of climate change.
But even if climate change were real, Zinke said, (to be clear, it is), he sees the issue as “irrelevant” to the California wildfires. The real problem, according to Zinke, is the 120 million dead trees sitting in California’s forests—an issue his agency is supposed to help manage. “Alls you have to do is look at our highways and the amount of dead and dying timber in our forests, it’s clear what’s occurring,” he said. “It is the fires are enraged and intensified by too much density of dead and dying timber.”
While dead timber is indeed a problem with regard to wildfire management, Zinke neglected to mention two things: One, that scientists have found climate change is exacerbating California’s dead tree crisis. And two, that Zinke has been promoting industrial logging—that is, clearing live, healthy trees from forests—to solve the problem.
“Alls you have to do is talk to the [firefighters],” Zinke said, claiming they would cite forest management as their biggest problem and not climate change, which is prolonging the season and making extreme blazes more likely. And yet, last week, the assistant deputy director of Cal Fire told The New York Times the opposite.“Let’s be clear,” he said. “It’s our changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires.”
Aside from his climate-change denial, Zinke also used the wildfires to bring up his military experience. Asked to describe the blazes, Zinke replied, “Well, you know, I served in Iraq. The devastation in the California wildfires is the worst I’ve ever seen.” Zinke made a similar comment while visiting Redding, California on Sunday. “As a former (Navy) SEAL that was a deputy commander and acting commander in Iraq, this is on par with anything I’ve seen, just the devastation,” he said.
The whole interview is below.