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Gov. Inslee urges Trump to ‘abandon half-baked theories’ on climate change amid wildfires

Gov. Jay Inslee visited Malden, Washington, on Sept. 10, 2020. (Gov. Inslee/Twitter)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an open letter to President Donald Trump on Monday, stressing the role of climate change in recent wildfires that have ravaged the West Coast over the last week.

Smoke, air quality ‘primary issue’ across Western Washington

This came after the president traveled to California on Monday and met with Gov. Gavin Newsom, where he clashed with many of the state’s environmental experts. That came to a head when California’s Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot urged Trump to “recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests.”

“If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians,” Crowfoot said.

“It will start getting cooler, just you watch,” Trump replied.

Crowfoot then posed the argument that the president’s views are not aligned with the science behind climate change. To that, Trump countered, “I don’t think science knows, actually.”

In light of that exchange, Inslee similarly called on the president to “recognize the science behind this destruction and stop your path of distortion and deception.”

“These willful denials are harming our nation and our people,” Inslee’s letter reads. “You said about the climate: ‘It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch.’ That is false. This abandonment of leadership has once again left the states on their own to fight this existential threat to our people.”

“I would urge you to abandon your half-baked theories and engage in good faith about the obvious relationship between climate change and wildfires,” the letter continues. “The rules of fighting wildfires are changing because our climate is changing. There is no fire suppression plan on this planet that does anyone any good if it doesn’t even acknowledge the role of climate change. Deliberate and decisive action must be taken on a global scale, with the United States in the lead.”

Gov. Inslee: Recent fires in Washington are ‘not natural’

The president has contended that Democratic state leaders are to blame for failing to rake leaves and clear dead timber from forest floors. That being so, wildfire experts and forest managers say raking leaves makes little sense for vast U.S. wilderness and forests, as many of the blazes — especially in Washington — have roared through coastal vegetation and grasslands, not forest.

University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences Cliff Mass offered a different theory Monday to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson, siding with the president on the idea that “in general, it’s not true” that climate change has been a key driver behind recent wildfires. Rather, Mass claims it’s a combination of poor forest management and unseasonably high winds.

To that point, Inslee noted in his letter to Trump that “forest management is merely one piece of the puzzle.”

“Since 2009, our state has spent more than $130 million for forest health and fire preparedness,” he pointed out. “These events still overwhelm our residents and resources, because these fires are unlike anything people have seen before.”

Jonathan Lemire, Aamer Madhani, Will Weisset, and Ellen Knickmeyer with the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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