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Attribution Absurdity

By:
Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Apr 23, 2019  at  at 6:00 AM
Category
Climate Change

In the current mantra of the consensed climate science community, every adverse weather-related event is alleged to have been caused by, or worsened by, climate change. Unverified climate models are being used in attribution studies to calculate the supposed percentage by which certain events were worsened by climate change. The attributed percentages vary wildly, depending on which model is used and which assumptions are input to the model.

Perhaps the most absurd collection of attributions relates to the recent wildfires in California. State government officials have been quick to attribute the occurrence or increased extent and intensity of most of these wildfires to climate change. Post-fire investigations have established that the fires were the result of numerous causes including arson, out-of-control homeless camp cooking and heating fires, and improperly maintained and operated electric transmission facilities.

The most destructive of the recent wildfires, the Camp Fire, is believed to have been caused by electric transmission facilities owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation, California’s largest utility.

“Cal Fire has determined that PG&E likely broke state law in connection with 12 of the 2017 fires, and is investigating the utility’s possible role in the Camp Fire. The Nov. 8 wildfire killed 86 people in the Paradise area, more than any other fire in California history. In disclosures to the state Public Utilities Commission, PG&E has acknowledged significant problems occurred on a transmission tower near the site where the Camp Fire is believed to have started.”

PG&E has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because of its potential legal liability resulting from the numerous wildfires believed to have been caused by its facilities. The Wall Street Journal described the PG&E bankruptcy as: “The First Climate-Change Bankruptcy”, though it has since provided a more comprehensive attribution. However, based on the Cal Fire determination shown above, numerous studies of forest management practices and analysis of the growing urban-forest interface, it appears absurd to attribute the PG&E bankruptcy or the California wildfires to climate change.

Wildfires occur for a number of reasons. It is not possible to prevent wildfires, but it is possible to minimize their occurrence and reduce the damages they cause. Improved forest management practices have the potential to greatly reduce wildfire damage, but are frequently resisted by environmentalists on the grounds that active forest management disturbs the natural order. Unfortunately, in many cases, wildfires are the natural order.

Attribution of wildfires and other naturally-occurring events to climate change is politically convenient, in that it diverts attention from other causes, focusing it instead on catastrophic anthropogenic global warming and climate disruption. Climate change does not start wildfires. Climate change does not add fuel sources to the forest floor which contribute to the intensity and spread of wildfires. The alleged contribution of climate change is changes in precipitation which encourage the growth of various types of plants when precipitation increases, providing an increased stock of combustible material when precipitation decreases. However, precipitation has varied seasonally and annually for as long as man has been monitoring precipitation; and, wildfires were occurring long before anthropogenic climate change became an issue.

Focusing attention away from the actual causes of wildfires will do nothing to reduce their occurrence or effects.