Trump, Newsom swap praise on handling wildfires, agree not to debate climate
President Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday traded rare compliments at a briefing on wildfires while agreeing to disagree on whether global warming is a contributing cause.
Newsom, a Democrat, and Trump committed to improving forest management and to avoiding a clash on whether climate change caused by fossil fuels is responsible, as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in a speech Monday and Newsom has often repeated.
The governor, who earlier this year lavished praise on Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hailed Trump’s emergency management orders that freed federal funds to fight fires.
“The major disaster declaration which you referenced, on Aug. 22 … was profoundly significant, not only to help us support our mutual aid system, but also individuals that are in desperate need of support,” Newsom told Trump of an order he signed.
“The state of California [and] your administration just entered into a first-type commitment over the next 20 years to double our vegetation management and forest management. I want to thank you for supporting that effort, funding that effort. We acknowledge our role and responsibility to do more in that space.”
Newsom conceded that Trump was right to blame dry leaves and logs on the forest floor for contributing to raging fires, saying, “There’s no question, when you look past this decade looking past almost 1000-plus years that we have not done justice on our forest management.”
But Newsom also pointed out the much of the land that’s on fire is federally owned and asked Trump to “agree to disagree” and “please respect, and I know you do, the difference of opinion out here as it relates to this fundamental issue on the issue of climate change.”
“Absolutely,” Trump replied.
Moments later, California secretary of natural resources Wade Crowfoot insisted to Trump that “we want to work with you to really recognize the changing climate.” Trump shot him down with a promise of cooler weather to come.
“It will start getting cooler, you just watch! I don’t think science knows actually,” Trump said.
Trump also praised Newsom at the event, saying, “I know we come from different sides of the planet. But we actually have a very good relationship, good man.”
Before the event, Trump told reporters on the smoky tarmac of an airport near Sacramento that blazes are attributable to dead wood and dry leaves, as well as the lack of breaks in forest cover.
Asked if both poor forest management and global warming were responsible, Trump said: “I think something’s possible. I think a lot of things are possible. But with regard to the forest, when trees fall down, after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry. They become really like a matchstick.”
Trump said those dry logs “just explode. They can explode. Also leaves. When you have years of leaves, dried leaves on the ground, it just sets it up, it’s really a fuel for a fire. So they have to do something about it.
“They also have to do cuts. I mean, people don’t like to do cuts but they have to do cuts in between. So if you do have a fire and it gets away, you’ll have a 50 yard cut in between so it won’t be able to catch to the other side. They don’t do that.”
For years, Trump has invoked Europe as setting an example for California and other western states to follow.
“I was talking to a head of a major country,” Trump said on the tarmac. “And he said, ‘We’re a forest nation we consider ourself a forest station.’ This was in Europe. I said that’s a beautiful term. He said, ‘We have trees that are far more explosive,’ he meant explosive in terms of fire. ‘But we have trees that are far more explosive than they have in California, and we don’t have any problems. Because we manage our forest.’ So we have to do that in California, too.”
Trump also awarded seven medals to emergency personnel responding to fires before departing for Arizona.
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