Substantial CA Forest Management Changes Needed ESPECIALLY If You Think The Fires Are Caused by Climate Change

There is a debate raging between the usual suspects as to whether the larger fires in California are the inevitable result of manmade climate change or whether they are the result of poor forest management practices.  For this post I actually am not going to weigh in right on this , except to say that long-time readers will know I am skeptical of most claims that tie tail-of-the-distribution events to manmade CO2 and I find it hard to correlate large fire loss years with actual temperature / drought data for the same year.

For a moment, let's accept that the fires this year are due to the climate change effects from rising manmade CO2.    As of today, CO2 makes up 412.55 ppm of the atmosphere (0.0412%).  To the extent that this number is driven upwards mainly by manmade CO2 (it was about 370 or 0.037% at the turn of the century), this is the lowest this number is going to be in your lifetime.   Even fast, drastic action in the US is only going to lower our CO2 emissions somewhat (as long as we stop short of sending the economy back to the stone age).  And even if we do go full paleo on the economy, India and China will continue emitting away.  This number will keep rising for decades, and even if we get to the point of reversing the rise, that would take decades more to get back to where it is today.  Note how far we have dialed back the world economy in 2020, and you can't even see a difference in the slope of the CO2 concentration curve.

I personally don't believe that manmade CO2 is the primary control knob on the climate, but for those of you who do, the temperature and drought conditions in California (by your assumptions) are the best this year that they will ever be again in your lifetime, even with dramatic climate action.

So do your thing on CO2 -- I have proposed a carbon tax plan that works here -- but using the need for climate action as an excuse for avoiding the forest management issues is absolutely irresponsible.  As I have shown above, if this is caused by CO2 then the need for mitigation and defensive actions to make forests more robust to fire is more rather than less crucial because CO2 is only going to go up in the coming years.

My company operates over a hundred Forest Service campgrounds in California, and over a hundred more in Oregon and Washington.  My employees live right in the middle of these forests you see burning down on the news -- the Sierra, the Sequoia, the Mt Hood, etc.  We see the condition of these forests up close, and it is terrible.  There is fuel laying everywhere, in part due to massive bark beetle tree kills and in part due to the natural aging of forests.   These forests are like houses with matches and oily rags lying all over the floor.  They need to be cleaned up.

I know environmentalists have a beautiful vision of our forests returning to their primeval state, free of active human intervention.  But that is never going to happen, at least in California.  There are simply too many people living in and around the forests.  In fact, we have increasingly found ourselves in a position that is worse than either total non-intervention or active management.  We intervene to put out small fires that burn up fuel when the fuel loads are low, thus letting fuel build up until we get catastrophic fires.