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When you don't have power

23 Oct 2019 | OP ED Watch

In California, NBC reports, the troubled utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has imposed rolling blackouts on millions of people to avoid burning their homes. There’s a certain logic to it, because the fear is that power lines downed by high winds may start dangerous wildfires. But there’s a certain illogic to accepting that human error, not human CO2, is behind the fires, then cutting off power instead of making it safer, because nothing must interfere with a dogmatic commitment to meet our Paris commitments times three. Not even fire safety.

NBC of course blames “a rapidly changing climate” for the California wildfire problem. But the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention has a different explanation: Decades of lousy forest management that have piled up tinder. Sensibly, it wants to remove some of the tinder. Which the LA Times editorialized against, preferring “hardening” homes against fire.

Of course you don’t want your house to catch fire even if your lawn just did. But we know that there have always been wildfires, and that older forest management practices of suppressing every blaze have had the counterproductive consequence that when a fire finally did get out of hand, it had the accumulated deadfall and brush fuel of three or four old-tyme fires to work with. So surely it’s just common sense to work with nature not against it to prevent unnaturally huge conflagrations.

Unfortunately common sense is rarely seen when it comes to climate change. And to admit that such prosaic solutions exist means to admit that prosaic causes do too. And they must not.

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