Rush Limbaugh told millions of his radio listeners to put aside any suggestion that climate change was to blame for the frightening wave of wildfires that ravaged California and the Pacific Northwest.
“Man-made global warming is not a scientific certainty; it cannot be proven, nor has ever been, “said Mr. Limbaugh in his Friday show, ignoring the mountains of empirical evidence to the contrary. Then he moved on to a popular right-wing argument: that policies intended to reduce climate change are, in effect, an assault on freedom.
Hours later, that message leapt into prime time on Fox News, where host Tucker Carlson said those who blamed climate change for the fires were merely reciting “a biased talking point.”
“In the hands of democratic politicians, climate change is like systemic racism in the sky”, Mr. Carlson told viewers. “You can’t see it, but rest assured, it’s everywhere and it’s deadly. And like systemic racism, it’s your fault.”
Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Carlson are two of the most prominent commentators in the right-wing media sphere, where a rich history of climate denial has merged with the Trump-era culture warfare to generate deep skepticism about the idea that climate change is a factor in the fires that ravaged the west coast.
Like President Trump, conservative media stars reject climate change – which scientists say is the root cause of the conflagration – and point to the mismanagement of forests by local (and, fittingly, Democrats) officials. Right-wing fringe websites, such as The Gateway Pundit, have blamed left-wing arsonists, fueling false rumors that authorities say they are hindering rescue attempts.
Visiting California on Monday to witness the destruction firsthand, Trump took charge of Western states for failing to manage forests properly. During a meeting with California officials who pushed him to recognize the role of climate change in wildfires, the president said, “It’s going to start to get cooler. You just have to look.”
“I wish science would agree with you,” replied Wade Crowfoot, California secretary for natural resources.
“Well, I don’t think science knows, actually,” Trump retorted.
The president’s comments are likely to resonate with fans of conservative media personalities who routinely defend his agenda.
“This has nothing to do with climate change, it has nothing to do with man-made climate change, and it would certainly help if these forests in these wooded areas were free to be managed properly, but they are not.” Mark Levin, another popular right-wing radio host, said Friday on his nationwide syndicated program.
Like Mr. Carlson, Mr. Levin has drawn a link between climate advocacy and recent racial justice demonstrations, suggesting that both causes – widely associated with liberals – have offered a cloak for more sinister intentions.
“They want to talk about man-made climate change because, from it, they want to control you,” Levin said. “It’s just like the race stuff – ‘systematically racist’ – well, what do you want to do about it? I control you. You break down. You have to change your lifestyle, you have to confess something.”
Some right-wing writers see even darker origins in the outbreak of a lethal fire.
The Gateway Pundit, a conspiracy site with a healthy online following – was its lead writer, Jim Hoft welcomed at the White House by Trump – published posts claiming that the fault lay with left anarchists, not the environment.
“Many arsonists have already been arrested in Oregon, Washington and California, but Democrats continue to blame the fires on climate change,” a Gateway Pundit article said Monday, along with a video allegedly showing a woman in Oregon facing a arsonist on his property. The site said major news outlets ignored this story because it “goes against their global warming and their anti-gun narrative.”
A man in Oregon was accused last week of lighting the destructive Almeda fire in a small town he was ordered to evacuate. But authorities say rising temperatures are a predominant cause of this year’s outbreak.
For the president’s political supporters, the idea that dishonest shooters are wreaking havoc is a tantalizing echo of a key message adopted by Trump and Republicans in the presidential race: that regions of the country have been consumed by leftist violence.
And Mr. Trump continues to downplay environmental factors. When asked “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday about its political plans to combat climate change, the president replied, “You have forests all over the world. You don’t have fires like California.”
The Californians were discussing how to reduce the risk of deadly fires, with some officials arguing for more controlled burns. An August press release from the office of Gavin Newsom, the California governor, noted that the state’s forests were “highly vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires and in need of active, science-based management,” partly due to the harsh conditions. hot and dry weather created by changing.
Mr. Newsom has asked the federal government to play a more active role in managing the state’s forests. About 58 percent of California’s forests are controlled by the federal government; the state owns 3 percent.
For environmental advocacy groups, problematic media coverage of fires is not limited to platforms associated with the law.
The Environmental Defense Fund, in a harsh post, said that many mainstream media outlets have failed to draw a direct link between widespread destruction and the dangerous consequences of a changing climate.
“It’s like talking about the greater spread of Covid while ignoring why it is spreading,” the group wrote.