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Climate Change Played Minor Role In California Wildfires, Experts Conclude

January 9, 2020

By Paul Homewood



Climate change has only played a minor role in recent Californian wildfires, according to new research:



Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley, said 20% to 25% of the wildfire damage resulted from climate change, and “75% is the way we manage lands and develop our landscape.”

Jennifer Montgomery, director of the California Forest Management Task Force, said climate change “accelerated” wildfires by creating hotter and drier conditions throughout the state that intensified naturally occurring blazes.

“Climate change is an amplifier for natural systems and natural occurrences,” Montgomery said.

The comments by Montgomery and Stephens at an environmental conference in Washington undermine recent assertions by the head of California’s largest power utility that the wildfires were climate-driven.

From 2017 to 2019, California wildfires killed 103 people, burned nearly 4 million acres and caused millions of utility customers to lose power for weeks as electric companies shut off electricity to prevent downed power lines from igniting forests or grasslands.

Full story ($)


As I have been pointing out about the latest Australian fires, it is really pretty academic arguing about the exact role of climate change, given that we can do nothing about it anyway in the medium term.

It is the things we can do something about, such as forest management, that we should all be focussing on. This study proves that proper fire hazard management, forest management, power line maintenance and banning of urban developments in high risk areas amongst other things would have a substantial effect on the severity of fires.

  1. Brian Richards permalink
    January 9, 2020 6:42 pm

    Meanwhile, in Halifax NS Canada, Climate Cafes offer support for Haligonians overwhelmed by climate change

    | | | | | |


    | | | | Climate Cafes offer support for Haligonians overwhelmed by climate change

    Read the full story and comment on HalifaxToday. |



  2. Gene Farr permalink
    January 9, 2020 6:47 pm


    The US Organization the coordinates wildfire fighting efforts has gathered data on fire occurrences and acres burned.

    This clearly shows that the warming climate has not caused more fires.



    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      January 9, 2020 7:55 pm

      One such source:

      nifc = National Interagency Fire Center
      Updated Fridays, so current data is for only 3 days.
      I have never tried to go back, but because this is a new year that is of interest.

  3. Jean Bird permalink
    January 9, 2020 6:51 pm

    Prove the 20%-25%.

    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      January 9, 2020 8:00 pm

      Numbers needed to acquire funding.
      Similar to 1.5°, 97%, and ice-free means down to about 1 M sq. km.
      This is “climate science” – – no proof needed.

      • Pancho Plail permalink
        January 9, 2020 10:52 pm

        It is a percentage required for face saving only – no science needed.

  4. January 9, 2020 7:58 pm

    I notice Channel 4 are still pushing the idea that the Australian wildfires are due either to arsonists or climate change. No consideration of forest mis-management as a result of green policies.

  5. Athelstan. permalink
    January 9, 2020 8:33 pm

    “Climate change is an amplifier”

    Some egregiously vacuous statement of very dubious feint and yet they get away with it and because most of joe and joanna public are so ignorant of the facts.

    California is, and with the north Pacific gyre, subject to the effects of cool (North Pacific drift) oceanic currents, if one compares, the Benguelan (Africa), Peruvian (S America), Western Australia, all of these coasts are subject to the effects of cool currents, one noticeable and common to all, arid conditions prevail, this is no mystery, cool sea currents effect arid air, fog but not a lot of precipitation.

    Only proper forestry land management and fire breaks allied to constant and careful fire watch and limitation on building in areas most prone to fires can prevent but not cease Natural fires and because – hey………CA it’s a very arid region.

  6. Mack permalink
    January 9, 2020 8:42 pm

    There is no evidence whatsoever that ‘climate change’ has increased the likelihood of wild fires / bush fires in the modern era. Indeed, the stats in both Australia and the US show that forest fires have been, historically, worse than now in the era before CO2 emissions were even a pimple on Michael Mann’s backside! Fires do not more frequently ‘self ignite’ because of a 1 degree centigrade increase in temperatures over 150 years, even at temperatures in excess of the current Australian and US records. Certainly not without external intervention, be it lightning strikes or, more usually, human intervention by accidental or nefarious means. After a fire has been started, ‘climate change’ has bugger all to do with it’s subsequent spread. That’s all down to fuel loads, local weather and winds. Of course, by proper land management in fire prone areas and restricting building in vulnerable locations with proper fire breaks, such impacts can be mitigated. But to espouse such views as this makes you a dirty climate denier according to the MSM. Go figure!

    • RICHARD JARMAN permalink
      January 10, 2020 11:37 am

      Excellent summary

  7. January 9, 2020 8:47 pm

    Banning development in fire prone areas would mean walking away from Australia. The first thing people do when they move into a house is plant trees to provide shade and shelter.

    Putting fire management authorities in charge of permissions to develop properties is a recipe for stagnation as we are discovering in Western Australia.

    I am a farmer, every block I have has bush on it in those parts that the early settlers thought offered less scope for farming because wet, rocky, sloping, thin soil etc. A 60% utilization rate is rare.

    When one chooses a site for a house, the last place chosen is in the middle of a cleared paddock. One wants shelter and a view. So, slopes, amidst the bush.

    Before the days of bulldozers everyone used fire to bring new growth to grazing animals. Those skills are gone.

    • Athelstan. permalink
      January 9, 2020 9:03 pm

      It would be hard to argue with any of that, and I won’t.

      People should be aware of the risks, why shouldn’t the land be used and cultivated and of course shade trees are a must. But also folks realize it, know that natural fires – nature will have its way sometimes and there ain’t a thing you can do, unless you build some proper protective shelter and provision it, and defo priority: are always alert to the dangers.

  8. Joe Public permalink
    January 9, 2020 10:49 pm

    Pacific Gas & Electric have been deemed the fall guys:

    PG&E reaches $13.5-billion settlement with victims of devastating California wildfires

    “Pacific Gas & Electric on Friday (6th Dec 2019) announced a $13.5-billion settlement for several Northern California wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.

    The settlement with victims covers some of the worst fires in the state’s modern history, including the wine country blazes in 2017 and the fire that nearly destroyed the town of Paradise in 2018.

    “We want to help our customers, our neighbors and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires,” Chief Executive Bill Johnson said in a statement.

    The announcement also comes as the utility faces an uncertain future. PG&E’s transmission equipment has been widely blamed for repeatedly sparking wildfires, and the utility has not contested damning findings of recent investigations.

    The utility has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but is trying to remain financially viable. The utility says the settlement is a step in that direction.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 10, 2020 2:06 pm

      You have to laugh when in response PG&E turn off the power when high winds come to prevent the chance of igniting fires.

  9. Pancho Plail permalink
    January 9, 2020 10:54 pm

    Wild fires are only caused by global warming in so far as GW hysteria leads to irrational “preventive” measures.

  10. January 10, 2020 3:39 am

    The state congress passed a resolution to have all the trees trimmed an cut back from the hydro lines a couple years ago and the state governor vitoed the bill .Dry season comes the winds knocks trees down , sparks and you got a fire .Is that climate change? And people are building houses in high risk areas ,is that climate change ?

  11. Gerry, England permalink
    January 10, 2020 2:07 pm

    Without some blame on global warming their funding will stop.

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