Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Trump Admin Manipulated Wildfire Science to Encourage Logging

Climate
An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.


The appointees looked to frame a story around the fires that would encourage a thinning of the forest through logging, which President Trump has said would help prevent forest fires. Experts have refuted his assertion.

The trove of emails that The Guardian uncovered show a coordinated effort to frame the carbon emissions from the 2018 wildfires as a blight that could be remedied by cutting down trees for logging.

The Trump administration has tried to make it appear that over-regulation, mismanagement, and forest protection are responsible for the severity of recent wildfires. However, a recent review published two weeks ago has concluded that the changing climate is the main culprit behind the sharp increase in wildfire risk.

"Overall, the 57 papers reviewed clearly show human-induced warming has already led to a global increase in the frequency and severity of fire weather, increasing the risks of wildfire," said Matthew Jones, senior research associate at University of East Anglia's Tyndall Centre and lead author of the review, in a statement. "This has been seen in many regions, including the western US and Canada, southern Europe, Scandinavia and Amazonia. Human-induced warming is also increasing fire risks in other regions, including Siberia and Australia."

In the same statement, Professor Iain Colin Prentice, Chair of Biosphere and Climate Impacts and Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society at the Imperial College London, added: "Wildfires can't be prevented, and the risks are increasing because of climate change. This makes it urgent to consider ways of reducing the risks to people."

The Trump administration decided not to follow that science and to use the wildfires as a way to promote industry. James Reilly, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) who was once a geologist for the oil and gas industry, asked scientists to "gin up" emissions figures for him, according to The Guardian. Reilly also claimed the numbers would make a "decent sound bite," and decided to discuss only the trees that produced outsized emissions to make "a good story."

"Gin-up is an unfortunate phrase to be sure, but it might have been a very imprecise way to ask for an estimate. It certainly does not inspire confidence," said Mark Harmon, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University's College of Forestry, to The Guardian.

The Guardian presented the emails to scientists who concluded that Reilly either used misleading language or cherry-picked the data, or he intentionally exploited a disaster and manipulated the data for pro-industry purposes.

One expert told The Guardian that the numbers the interior department came up with are significant overestimates and that logging would not help prevent or lessen wildfires. In fact, logging could be deleterious as it negates the ability of forests to trap carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

A USGS spokesperson, however, replied to The Guardian that Reilly's emails were "intended to instruct the subject matter expert to do the calculations as quickly as possible based on the best available data at the time and provide results in clear understandable language that the Secretary could use to effectively communicate to a variety of audiences." The secretary at the time of the emails was Ryan Zinke who had to resign under an ethics scandal.

Chad Hanson, an ecologist and co-founder of the John Muir Project, called the strategizing revealed in the emails a "blatant political manipulation of science," as The Guardian reported.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Daniel Yetman

Bleach and vinegar are common household cleaners used to disinfect surfaces, cut through grime, and get rid of stains. Even though many people have both these cleaners in their homes, mixing them together is potentially dangerous and should be avoided.

Read More Show Less
During a protest action on May 30 in North Rhine-Westphalia, Datteln in front of the site of the Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant, Greenpeace activists projected the lettering: "Climate crisis - Made in Germany" onto the cooling tower. Guido Kirchner / picture alliance / Getty Images

Around 500 climate activists on Saturday gathered outside the new Datteln 4 coal power plant in Germany's Ruhr region, to protest against its opening.

Read More Show Less
Dr. Mark Brunswick (2R), Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality, walks through the lab at Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego, California on May 22. ARIANA DREHSLER / AFP / Getty Images

By Julia Ries

Around the world, there have been several cases of people recovering from COVID-19 only to later test positive again and appear to have another infection.

Read More Show Less

By Samantha Hepburn

In the expansion of its iron ore mine in Western Pilbara, Rio Tinto blasted the Juukan Gorge 1 and 2 — Aboriginal rock shelters dating back 46,000 years. These sites had deep historical and cultural significance.

Read More Show Less
Meadow Lake wind farm in Indiana. Anthony / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Tara Lohan

The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 percent in April. But the drop won't last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7 percent this year.

Read More Show Less
Andrey Nikitin / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst

Plants are awesome. They brighten up your space and give you a living thing you can talk to when there are no humans in sight.

Turns out, having enough of the right plants can also add moisture (aka humidify) indoor air, which can have a ton of health benefits.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A bald eagle chick inside a nest in Rutland, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A bald eagle nest with eggs has been discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife), as Newsweek reported.
Read More Show Less