Let's talk climate scares and wildfires

The latest panic climate talk is amplified because of the smoke from Canadian fires that is drifting to the East, as all American weather does, to produce smoke in East Coast cities and create air quality advisories and pearl-clutching.  California wildfires in the recent past did not produce any measurable uptick in deaths or illnesses, but no matter: another crisis is currently besetting the lefty havens of the East Coast. 

YouTube screen grab (cropped).

A New Wildfire Study Scam

A new study was released May 16 by researchers of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Cambridge, MA 200-thousand-member, 50-million-dollar-a-year environmentalist non-profit, that attempts to prove up the argument that the planet will warm up 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) resulting from atmospheric CO2 increases above the current 410 parts per million.  This paper jumps on the scare bandwagon and claims the warming will reduce humidity (they use the words vapor pressure) and that will burn more forests down.

The paper tries hard to look very scientific, but the argument is simple: warming will dry the air and leech water from the vegetation, causing it to be better fuel for forest fires.  In other words, shame on the fossil fuel users and producers; it's their fault.

Ed Ring does a nice job in his essay of May 24 at American Greatness taking down the arguments of the greenies and putting up a better explanation for wildfires that notes the obvious: increased wildfires are because of empty-headed enviro policies that reduce proper forestry culling of thick growth and reduce logging.  For example, in California, environmentalism has ended thinning efforts for forest growth, including reducing logging to  one third of what it was in the recent past.  

Mr. Ring reviews the pretentions of these green propagandist pseudo-scientists:

  • They don't stick to their research and fill up the introduction with the typical anti–fossil fuel rhetoric condemning all aspects of modern energy production based on fossil fuels. 
  • They ignore droughts — even centuries-long droughts that have been a reality over the eons in the western part of North America.
  • The graphics and the arguments in the Union paper claim hot weather as their ground for the wildfire claims, resulting in an exaggerated negative humidity effect, but even if one excepts the claim of greenhouse gas effects of warming of less than 2 degrees C (3.7 degrees F), that creates a small — less than 4% — change in relative humidity.
  • The authors fail to consider the equilibrium thermodynamics that result from adding energy (temperature) to the planet.  Warming will increase cool and cold and have little effect on warm and hot.  When energy is added to the planet that has an average temperature of around 58 F, the most impacted are cooler parts of the atmosphere — night temperatures, polar and high latitude cool and cold temperatures.
  • The impact of warming reduces cold air masses more than warm.  The warming also has an impact on the oceans, three quarters of the Earth's surface.  Talk about a sink for energy that goes to depths of miles — that's a real modulator.  Runaway warming is a scare-monger's trope.

The 5% decrease in relative humidity that would occur if the planet temperature increased by 3 degrees F from its average of 58° F is so small as to be buried in randomness variabilities of temperatures of the planet, daily and seasonal.  The relative humidity dramatically rises when temperature goes down.  If you start at 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% relative humidity, at 40 degrees F, for example, the relative humidity would be 73% (2.3% rise  per degree).  At 90 degrees, it would be 13% (0.325% decline per degree).

The important thing to remember is that plants do not function well when it's cold.  Optimal plant temp is close to 90 when all things are considered, but remember: these junk scientists are not interested in science — they are propagandists for the green movement.  Union of Concerned Scientists, indeed.

Although Mr. Ring didn't discuss it, another consideration that blows a hole in the side of this enviro proposal is that an increase in planet temperature will cause an increased evaporative impact on open bodies of water — fresh and ocean water — so the premise that warming causes drier air that will suck water out of plants and make them more flammable tinder is not necessarily so.  Warming may increase precipitation because as the warm air rises, water vapor condenses — clouds and rain.  

Finally, the authors ignore the major reasons for an increase in wildfires: arson, more arson, and the tinderbox created by poor forestry practices, and restriction of logging and harvesting of forests that decreases density.  Dense forests cause wildfires to be more frequent and of greater magnitude.

This paper is a part of a pattern — a poorly formulated claim of factoids is blown up into a basis for a scare.  But a reasonable analysis of the science shows the claims to be inadequately formulated.  Fossil fuel use and increased CO2 in the air are not the cause of any valid prediction of increased wildfire frequency or severity.

John Dale Dunn is a retired emergency physician and inactive attorney in Brownwood, Texas.

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