Sen. Sanders blasts Zinke: Wildfires 'have everything to do with climate change'

Sen. Sanders blasts Zinke: Wildfires 'have everything to do with climate change'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders endorses Oakland teachers strike Dem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 News media has sought to 'delegitimize' Tulsi Gabbard, says liberal journalist MORE (I-Vt.) criticized Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInterior looking to rely on staffers with less training for park law enforcement: report DOJ investigation into former Interior chief goes to grand jury Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House MORE Monday for saying that the debate over California’s wildfires has “nothing to do with climate change.”

Sanders, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016 and is one of the Senate’s most progressive members on climate change, said the wildfires should show how serious a threat global warming is.

“No, Secretary Zinke. The record-breaking wildfires in California have everything to do with climate change,” Sanders tweeted, responding to a report in The Hill on Zinke’s remarks to a Sacramento television station. “We must confront the reality that climate change is already destroying tens of thousands of lives, and take concrete steps to avoid its worst consequences.”

While saying the fires have “nothing to do with climate change,” Zinke seemed to acknowledge the role of climate change.

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“This is not a debate about climate change. There’s no doubt the [fire] season is getting longer, the temperatures are getting hotter,” he said Sunday.

Climate and forestry experts have said a warming planet, caused largely by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, has made severe wildfires more likely, due to drought, increased extreme heat and other effects.

Zinke and others in the Trump administration, though, have focused heavily on the argument that the historic wildfires — including the largest fire in California’s recorded history — are due to a lack of “active” forest management.

They blame environmental groups for stopping management techniques like clearing brush, increasing logging and prescribed burns.

“Extreme environmentalists have shut down public access. They talk about habitat, and yet they are willing to burn it up,” he said in the television interview.

Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueSenate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems Energy Secretary Rick Perry is designated survivor for 2019 State of the Union Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union MORE were in California on Monday to meet with officials, firefighters, fire survivors and others, and promote the administration’s active forest management agenda.