NY Times Story on Wildfire Funding

Here’s a link:

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s annual budget request to Congress will propose a significant change in how the government pays to fight wildfires, administration officials said, a move that they say reflects the ways in which climate change is increasing the risk for and cost of those fires.

The wildfire funding shift is one in a series of recent White House actions related to climate change as Mr. Obama tries to highlight the issue and build political support for his administration’s more muscular policies, like curbing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. On Monday, Mr. Obama plans to describe his proposal at a meeting in Washington with governors of Western states that have been ravaged recently by severe drought and wildfires.

The proposal will ask Congress to pay the costs of fighting extreme wildfires in the same way it finances the federal response to disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, the officials said. When unpredictable events like Hurricane Sandy are destructive enough to be declared disasters by the president, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is authorized to exceed its annual budget and draw on a special disaster account. The account is adjusted each year to reflect the 10-year average cost of responding to such events.

Questions for those who know.. is it like the Flame Act? IF so why would it work better?

What difference does it make why there are more troublesome wildfires (building in the WUI, climate change, fire suppression) if you just have a commonsensical idea for dealing with it.. kind of like Congress already had, and probably didn’t couch it in terms of “dealing with climate change”?

Although,pragmatically, if that’s what it takes to legitimize a common-sense solution, I suppose it doesn’t matter why the Administration is doing it.

Unless there’s some poor bureaucrat somewhere adding up “funding Administration spends on climate change” and gets to add this as a healthy-sized chunk.”

Notice that the Times did not mention other potential causes, even the WUI that the Headwaters analysis singled out in our prior news coverage of the issue.

I liked this quote..(my italics)

A series of scientific studies have warned that increasing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels could cause the planet to warm by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, leading to rising sea levels, stronger storms and more extreme droughts. A study published last year by Forest Service researchers concluded that wildfires were expected toincrease 50 percent across the United States under a changing climate, and over 100 percent in areas of the Western United States by 2050.

Hmm. “were expected to” sounds stronger than “could” perhaps the Times has greater confidence in the FS scientists than in the storm, drought and temperature scientists?

Seems like 100% more habitat for the black-backed woodpecker..or not, but it seems to me like policies/”science” need to pick a lane on this.

7 Comments

  1. Is throwing more money at wildfires really a valid way to address climate change? Or, is it merely a way to say “I’m doing ‘something’ about climate change”? Yes, it is MUCH easier to buy more engines, helicopters and airtankers, than to apply site-specific science, in the form of “boots on the ground” restoration. Politically, it appears to be a Democratic slap in the face to those Republicans who want to cut the budget in any way possible, regardless of the consequences. I’d also like to see some oversight as to how the money is being spent. If it is being labeled as a response to climate change, then all the money should go to actual climate benefits, and not to making fires bigger and more intense.

  2. It does seem arbitrary to focus on one single (putative) cause of wildfire scenarios. I suspect, as alluded to above, that it’s a somewhat heavy-handed way to force some acquiescence to a larger climate change program. Here in Idaho, the reddest of the red states, it will put politicians in a bind, either get on board (implicitly anyway) with the bigger climate change program, or… what? Turn down firefighting money? Another case of “the means justify the end”.

  3. I like Guy’s take on it, but how about this: global climate disruption is causing government spending to increase, so maybe fiscal conservatives should think some more about mitigation regulations. (It’s a little hard to tell what is the Administration’s strategy and what is what the Times thinks the strategy is.)

    (And maybe the Forest Service researchers themselves had more confidence in their less precise projections than the climate scientists did in their more precise projections.)

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