Summary: We rely on the news to see and understand our world. But it has become a stream of propaganda. Stories about climate change show how this works. We must fix the news media to have any hope of reforming America.
I have read the news for 50 years, and the current state is beyond anything I imagined possible. It overflows with propaganda, 24-7. Often ludicrous propaganda, devoid of a basis in fact or logic. Or both.
- We are told to believe the accusations against Kavanaugh, without evidence (believe the victim, despite the frequency of false rape claims – for example, in the US and in England).
- We’re told bogus stories about the campus rape epidemic.
- We are told that Russian interference tilted the 2016 election results, without any evidence proportionate to the claim.
- For two years we are bombarded with claims about Russiagate, still without evidence.
- We are told bogus tales of victory in Iraq and Afghanistan coming real soon.
- We are told bogus stories about the wonders of tax cuts for the rich, despite their failure to do anything but explode the deficit under Reagan, again under Bush Jr., and again under Trump.
Then there is climate change. Activists see the IPCC and major climate agencies as “too conservative” (e.g., see Inside Climate News, The Daily Climate, and Yale’s Environment 360). They exaggerate and distort the science to create panic. Extreme weather is routinely described by activists – and uncritically reported by journalists – as resulting from anthropogenic factors (no matter how normal it is in history). We had severe big hurricanes in 2005, including Katrina – so we were told to expect ever increasing numbers of hurricanes of every increasing strength. Quite falsely. The long droughts in California and in Texas were described as permanent – until they ended.
Among the most intense propaganda is the misuse of the worst-case scenario in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): RCP8.5. It is well-designed, assuming many unlikely bad breaks for humanity. But hundreds or thousands of papers and news stories misrepresent it as a “business as usual” future, likely or even inevitable.
Now another cycle of fakery begins, as California’s wildfires are blamed on emissions of CO2. This is straight-forward science denial. The long-term factors are all natural. Droughts are natural to California (ones much longer and more severe than anything recent). Large fires are a natural part of the ecosystem, to which the native plants are adapted. A century of fire suppression has made the West’s forest into giant tinderboxes. Population growth has pushed residential housing into areas in which they are certain to burn, eventually (unless expensive preventive measures were taken). See details about this here and here.
For an analysis of the short-term factors, turn to an analysis by Cliff Mass: “Was Global Warming A Significant Factor in California’s Camp Fire? The Answer is Clearly No.” He is a professor of atmospheric sciences at the U of Washington (home page, Wikipedia). See his opening.
“The Camp Fire that struck the northern California town of Paradise and vicinity is a profoundly disturbing environmental disaster of first magnitude. …And beyond the heart-wrenching losses noted above, it is doubly tragic that this disaster was both foreseeable and avoidable, resulting from a series of errors, poor judgment, lack of use of available technology, and poor urban planning.
“It is more than unfortunate that some politicians, environmental advocacy groups, and activist scientists are attempting to use this tragedy as a tool for their own agenda, make the claim that the Camp Fire was result of global warming. As I will discuss below, this claim has little grounding in fact or science. Global warming is a profoundly serious threat to mankind, but it has little impact the Camp Fire and many of the coastal California fires of the past few years (e.g., the Wine Country Fires of October 2017). And blaming global warming takes attention away from the actions needed to prevent such tragedies from happening again.”
After a deep review of the data, he gives the grim bottom line.
“As I will discuss in a future blog, the Paradise area was a ticking time bomb. There was a huge influx of population into a wildland area, which had burned many times in the past. Previously logging and fires had left a conduit of highly flammable grass and bushes, through which fire could move rapidly. Flammable, non-native invasive grasses had spread through the region. Homes were not built to withstand fire and roadways were inadequate for evacuation. Powerlines started the fires and were not de-energized even though strong winds were skillfully forecast. Warnings to the population were inadequate. The list is long. And global warming should not be on the list if we are to focus on the real problems.”
The essential step to fix the climate – and America
We are a a nation lit only by propaganda. How dumb do they think we are? The obvious answer: very. The next few years will prove if they are correct.
We cannot fix American while we remain so gullible. Even when we learn that our leaders have lied to us, they suffer no consequences (see the Big List of Lies). Now for the bad news: journalists feed us these stories because we enjoy them. It’s a business; they provide what their readers want. Today that is info-tainment – politically pleasing fables and fake news, When we want real news, that is what they will provide. There are many ways we can make that happen.
We are what we are by choice. Let’s take responsibility for that – and decide to change.
For More Information
Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see The keys to understanding climate change and my posts about climate change. Also see all posts about information and disinformation, and especially these with good news about the climate…
- More good news about climate change from the IPCC: no sign yet of the methane apocalypse.
- Prof Botkin gives us good news about our changing climate.
- More good news about the climate, giving us a priceless gift.
- Are 30 thousand species going extinct every year?
- The IPCC gives us good news about climate change, but we don’t listen.
- Good news about CO2 emissions. Progress to a better world.
Alarmists worked hard to keep you from reading this book.
Alarmists have worked long and hard to discredit Roger Pielke Jr., because he tells us about the IPCC and peer-reviewed research. Things that violate the “narrative” about our imminent doom. They really do not want you to read this book, the revised second edition of …
The Rightful Place of Science:
Disasters & Climate Change.
By Roger Pielke Jr.
See my review of the first edition. Here is the publisher’s summary …
“After nearly every hurricane, heatwave, drought, or other extreme weather event, commentators rush to link the disaster with climate change. But what does the science say?
“In this fully revised and updated edition of Disasters & Climate Change, renowned political scientist Roger Pielke Jr. takes a close look at the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the underlying scientific research, and the climate data to give you the latest science on how climate change is related to extreme weather. What he finds may surprise you and raise questions about the role of science in political debates.”
19 thoughts on “Wildfires and climate change: fake news in action”
Good article. I can’t disagree with any part of this analysis.
One insidious aspect of the entire “Operation Impending Doom” climate narrative is that it makes people throw up their hands about what can be done, because nothing matters except CO2 emissions and those aren’t under control so it’s all screwed, man, who cares, just let it die, worst time line, so on and so forth.
When in fact there’s a great deal you can do. I think there is some kind of deep craving for an apocalypse in the Western psyche: a point (seeable, but far enough away that you don’t have to change things around) whereupon Everything is Ruined and Nothing Matters. It probably used to be death and the afterlife but many people don’t genuinely believe in that any more, but the thought patterns hang around.
Don’t know if true or just pop psyco: Humans are only happy when they are a little miserable.
Two of the most important ecology works were about succession in an abandoned field in Georgia, and how fires shaped the biomes in California hills and mountains. I know the Odum brothers did the succesion in Georgia.
I bring these up because one of the areas where there is supposed expertise is the dynamics of succession. Whether man made or natural, there is the tendency of biota not to just grow or change until the biome is at maximum sustainability, but tends to overshoot. This claim, of the horrors of manmade climate change and fires in an biome whose composition is known to be dependent on fire for millenia, is beyond ignorance or stupidity.
Yes, as pointed out, not only is it infotainment, it is entertainment to our survivor’s guilt when we are too happy, IMO.
Such is a horrible way to go about addressing a real problem (since the squeeky wheel is a non problem, or as in this, case a self inflicted one.
I’m no scientist but I know trees, dry undergrowth and wind cause these fires.
Your post today reiterates previous posts about how “environmentalists” and rich folks wanting to build in the woods. You and I have both seen it.
I second NZ Pete.
I’ve hiked with Boy Scouts through western forests from the border up to Oregon and west thru New Mexico. Much of them are tinderboxes. Eventually something will start fires in each, burning away the tinder. Then they can return to their normal cycles. Nothing can stop this. Not greens’ dreams. Not politicians promises. That’s the hard truth that journalists won’t report.
We used to allow logging. I talked to a Forest Service arborist in a county north and he said logging could be done in a way that was good for the forest. I agree that the leaves and grass will burn, but sheep and cattle used to be profitable in California also and now they’re not. We’re also not allowed to hunt cougars which prey on the sheep.
Something can be done, but we have no will to do anything. It’s like the pension and border problems.
Trump was mostly correct about the role of mismanagement in the western fires. Even Jerry Brown admitted it proposing in August that the Legislature ease California logging rules (far too late, of course).
LK: Now for the bad news: journalists feed us these stories because we enjoy them.
Huge factor, but so too is pounding a narrative that keeps them in the good graces of their sources or sponsors. It’s amazing to sketch the network relationships, e.g., Jonah Goldberg’s wife worked for Nikki Haley. JG would mention that in articles that mention Haley, but how would a sustained series of anti-Haley tirades worked out for his wife? Please understand, not judgement past on JG; I enjoy his writing and just pulled the relationship at random. Andrea Mitchell/Alan Greenspan, Ruth Marcus/Jon Leibowitz (chairman of FTC under BHO)… the list goes on. Add on top of that looser associations than marriage (members of lobbying organizations and think tanks, etc), and if you want to keep getting invited to the galas and parties — keep your access — you don’t go pooping in the punch bowls. There is a reason that Sy Hersh is Sy Hersh.
As for the propaganda, it’s become blatant and almost painful. All the push buttons of the day get shoehorned in wherever they can. Donald Trump, cop violence, racism, sexism and climate change have resulted in an increase of unmown lawns in El Paso, Texas, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate crime by white supremacists. And, of course, the lede is always buried safely beyond the point where outrage has people flinging the paper/laptop/ipad across the room and reaching for their twitter feed. The Russians? They may have poked and prodded our systems, but Poltico-Press-Propaganda complex is of distinctly American construction.
PS: typo: native pants are adapted
(1) “keeps them in the good graces of their sources or sponsors.”
True, but that’s like water flowing downhill. Good luck changing that. Whereas we can change our behavior. The purpose of the FM website is to arouse people to change America. That means focusing on what we can do. The strong prey upon the weak – that’s the Great Circle of Life. We cannot change that. But we can choose not to be weak.
(2) “native pants are adapted …”
Thanks for catching that! I’ve fixed it. Although the typo version does make sense, sorta of…
News today — a prevalent summary:
“We get infotainment because that is what we want”
I think not! The TV watching majority had been coached over time, lulled into this cheap-to-produce no-serious-consequence fake-news, dialed as needed to “engage” the audience in any direction the P2B have required.
What is really standing out from this article?
I guess the Twitter in Chief has probably heard a wise Camp-Fire briefing (similar to Dr. Mass’ analysis above) and pointed to forestry mismanagement. Well, it is more involved than just that and reallocating federal funds may be productive.
So, how could we go about fixing our information system (news media) to have a chance to change the world?
* When TV Zombies are not very likely to spontaneously start using their brains for logic and cross-checking the fake-news reports of at least some importance…
* When commentators out-right ridicule the Trump’s tweet about forestry mismanagement proving that rather their own level of scrutiny was the laughing matter…
Maybe some novel ideas would help eliminating some of the Fake-News:
The automotive industry was slow to adopt new safety measures — look what Insurance Industry (IIHS-HLDI) and Feds (NHTSA) accomplished!
Why couldn’t this work as well in residential planning/building industry and with Feds cooperation? (And no, I didn’t envision videos of “Test-burning” houses, but mainly issuing building permits and insurance projections based on the real danger assessments: Landslide, Flood, Fire …)
Me: “We get infotainment because that is what we want”
Jako: “I think not! The TV watching majority had been coached over time …”
If you deny the agency of the American people, you deny not just our ability to govern ourselves – but our right to do so. Acceptance of responsibility for our actions is the first step back on the road to democracy. “The devil made me do it” is the cry of peons.
I didn’t mean to deny any ability of the American People — I just observed the obvious. However, it is entirely possible, that the “Devil” has made progress over the time and became invisible to most casual observers.
And, as much as you’re correct in accepting responsibility, honestly, that’s the hardest part, isn’t it — unless the comfortable majority is pushed hard against a wall, they will not voluntarily change nor accept anything what looks like responsibility.
Also, in the ultimate: “how do I accept responsibility” for voting young Trudeau into MP seat? We are just peons — we can’t make him to keep his promises — all we can do is vote for an alternative the next time around and start this BS all over again.
And, no sane politician today would adopt a system comparable to the Swiss direct democracy…
One insidious aspect of the entire “Operation Impending Doom” climate narrative is that it makes people throw up their hands about what can be done, because nothing matters except CO2 emissions and those aren’t under control so it’s all screwed, man, who cares, just let it die, worst time line, so on and so forth. SF
Agreed fully, I think this is because in the West we know we have hit peak and are declining in outright power and wealth, I know we are wealthier still, but nothing is made here, we are in debt to our eyeballs and few think pension and social obligations can be met in full within 10 – 20 years.
From the 1970’s onward there has been a slow increase in a feeling of let it die and start again, but we know it will be horrible, so push the thought out a few years. Climate change is a left play on that to increase de-industrialisation and the right has its rich part that sees the old days of only the rich affording cars, travel and a chance to shift tax onto consumption, for our own good to save the world, plus make a fortune out of trading carbon credits. Sales tax is a regressive tax that hits the poor more, it is 101 economics, especially if combined with a flat income tax rate, that eliminates progressive income tax rates.
The middle is in need of being stirred up to think and act, but I fear it is mainly just sitting there and struggling with flat or falling wages, helping its kids, paying a mortgage and trying to squeeze the budget to include something in the 401 or some sort of savings. That makes it potential prey for extremism and politics of the far left or right, all of which we are starting to see on the rise.
Personally, I have no answers, I read this site and others and I find it very interesting to then listen to our ABC news about the US, all we heard about Trump and bush fires, was basically he was out of touch and incentive and thought the forest should be raked out, and the journalists taking the piss. Ever word about Trump is negative, being a conservative I can see why many would support him, just to say up you to the the left media, which was a lot of Britex.
This a great eye opening story, thanks Editor.
Bill McKibben in the New Yorker: “How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet.”
“With wildfires, heat waves, and rising sea levels, large tracts of the earth are at risk of becoming uninhabitable. But the fossil-fuel industry continues its assault on the facts.
“As this essay goes to press, California is ablaze. A big fire near Los Angeles forced the evacuation of Malibu, and an even larger fire, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, has become the most destructive in California’s history. After a summer of unprecedented high temperatures and a fall “rainy season” with less than half the usual precipitation, the northern firestorm turned a city called Paradise into an inferno within an hour, razing more than ten thousand buildings and killing at least sixty-three people; more than six hundred others are missing.”
McKibben is a long-time science denier. This is typical for him. Thirty years of these stories has produced little political action, but they keep trying – considering the IPCC to be “too conservative.” Perhaps eventually they will try science!
Larry Kummer, Re: McKibben …
The New Yorker has a reputation for rigorous fact checking and writers such as John McPhee have entertained readers with stories of their attention to detail. I wonder if the fact checkers don’t do any fact checking of climate stories or if they only see facts from one side of the story. Or perhaps it is a story too good to check.
The Rolling Stone had a similar reputation, yet published a quite bogus story about rape culture at a frat. Much of the content in the NYT and WaPo has been bogus for the past decade or two. The Iraq War (Saddam’s WMDs!) and Iran’s Nukes and RussiaGate.
The Noble Lie corruption has spread. Tweaking the truth to save the world!
Making a buck in the media biz is difficult due to the gross oversupply of content. They must ruthlessly focus on providing what we want to read. In a tribal America, that means fragmentation of the media into groups that provide tribal truths.
When we change to value truth, they will change. The first step is for us to accept responsibility for what we have become. Few Americans are willing to do that today.
My wife and I moved to Arizona from Pennsylvania in 1966, and have lived here since then. We have loved the outdoors in Arizona, camping and hiking all over the state with all its incredibly lovely natural beauty.
In the ’60’s clear cutting was done everywhere in the National Forests. It was done in such a way that barriers to forest fires rampaging through massive areas was not allowed to occur, with clear cut areas preventing the spread of large fires, and logging roads giving access to forest fighters.
Today there is NO logging anywhere in Arizona. We have the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the world stretching from Williams, Arizona through Flagstaff all the way to the New Mexico border. These trees make excellent lumber. With no intelligent logging, this huge forest is a prime target for a terrible fire.
The fact that logging is now “verboten” has been encouraged by the fact that almost all new hires for the forest service and national park service as rangers and employees are recent young lady graduates in “environmental studies” that have the ideological view that all our national forests and national parks should be “wilderness areas” just as they were thousands of years ago.
This of course is impossible with a population in North America over 500 million. This is ideology rather than conservation of our natural assets. What good does it do to have an incredible place like the “Gila Wilderness” to be burned to the ground a few years ago? This magnificent forested area was 90% destroyed a few years ago by a terrible fire. Have our “environmental ideologue rangers have no pity for all the animals horribly burned there?
We need to have a total change in the way our forests are maintained. This is hindered by the huge private timber companies (such as Weyerhauser) who have lobbied to prevent all forestry and lumbering in the national forests. This prevents competition in the lumber business, and substantially raise their profits by keeping all lumbering out of the national forests, and thus keeping prices abnormally high.
This is typical of almost all powerful cartels in the United States today. This is only one of many “monopoly capitalist” powers in our country. In my view we are ruled by cartels.
Thank you for that interesting comment. Esp – I had not considered the impact of greens in the Forest Service.
I added paragraph breaks to make your comment easier for people to read.