Rush Limbaugh told millions of his radio listeners to put aside any suggestion that climate change was the culprit for the terrifying spate of forest fires ravaging California and the Pacific Northwest.
“Man-made global warming is not a scientific certainty. it cannot and never has been proven, ”Limbaugh stated in his Friday exhibit, regardless of the mountains of empirical evidence to the contrary. Then he turned to a popular right-wing topic of conversation: These climate change mitigation policies are indeed an attack on freedom.
Hours later, that message jumped into prime-time Fox News, where host Tucker Carlson said those who blamed climate change for the fires were merely reciting “a partisan talking point.”
“In the hands of Democratic politicians, climate change is like systemic racism in the sky,” Carlson told the audience. “You can’t see it, but rest assured it’s everywhere and it’s fatal. And as with systemic racism, it’s your fault. “
Mr Limbaugh and Mr Carlson are two of the most prominent commentators in the right-wing media arena, where a rich history of climate denialism has been fused with the Trump-era culture war to create a deep skepticism about the notion that climate change is climate change is a factor in the fires ravaging the west coast.
Like President Trump, conservative media stars reject climate change – which scientists say is the main cause of the fire – and point to poor management of forest areas by local (and conveniently Democratic) officials. Right-wing websites like The Gateway Pundit have accused left-wing arsonists and fueled false rumors that authorities say are hampering rescue efforts.
Mr Trump visited California on Monday to witness the destruction firsthand and brought western states to justice for failing to manage the forests properly. During a meeting with California officials urging him to recognize the role of climate change in the forest fires, the president said, “It’s getting cooler. You just watch. “
“I wish science would agree with you,” replied Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary for natural resources.
“Well, I don’t think science actually knows,” replied Mr. Trump.
The president’s comments are likely to resonate with fans of the conservative media figures who routinely defend his agenda.
“It has nothing to do with climate change, it has nothing to do with man-made climate change, and it would goddamn help if those forests in these wooded areas could be freely managed, but they are not.” Mark Levin, another popular far-right radio host, said on his nationally syndicated show Friday.
Like Mr Carlson, Mr Levin made a link between advocacy for the climate and recent demonstrations for racial justice, suggesting that both causes – largely associated with liberals – acted as cloaks for darker intentions.
“They want to talk about human-made climate change because they want to control you from here,” Levin said. “It’s just like racing – ‘systemically racist’ – well, what are you going to do about it? Control yourself. Knock yourself down. You have to change your lifestyle, confess something. “
Some right-wing writers see even darker origins in the outbreak of a fatal fire.
The Gateway Pundit, a conspiracy website with a healthy online following – its chief author Jim Hoft was welcomed to the White House by Mr. Trump – posted posts claiming that left anarchists were to blame, not the environment.
“Many arsonists have been arrested in Oregon, Washington, and California, but Democrats continue to blame climate change for the wildfires,” a Gateway Pundit story said Monday, along with a video allegedly showing a woman in Oregon confronted by an arsonist on her property. The website claimed that mainstream news outlets ignored this story because “it goes against their global warming and anti-weapon narrative”.
A man in Oregon was accused last week of starting the devastating Almeda fire in a small town that was about to be evacuated. However, authorities say rising temperatures are a main cause of this year’s outbreak.
For the president’s political supporters, the idea of rogue fire starters wreaking havoc is a tantalizing echo of a key message Trump and Republicans embraced in the presidential race: regions of the country have been consumed by left wing violence.
And Mr Trump continues to downplay environmental factors. When asked by Fox & Friends on Tuesday about his political plans to combat climate change, the president replied, “You have forests all over the world. They don’t have fires like in California. “
The Californians have discussed how to reduce the risk of deadly flames. Some officials advocate controlled burns. An August press release from California Governor Gavin Newsom found that the state’s forests are “very vulnerable to catastrophic forest fires and in need of active, science-based management,” due in part to hotter and drier climatic changes.
Mr. Newsom has urged the federal government to play a more active role in managing the state’s forests. About 58 percent of California’s forest is controlled by the federal government. The state owns 3 percent.
For environmental groups, problematic media coverage of forest fires is not limited to law-related platforms.
The Environmental Defense Fund said in a scathing post that many mainstream news outlets have made no direct link between widespread destruction and the dangerous consequences of a changing climate.
“It’s like talking about the increasing prevalence of Covid and ignoring the reason it’s spreading,” the group wrote.