LA Times reveals 2020 CA Wildfire CO2 Wiped Out 18 Years of the State’s Emissions Reductions

Guest essay by Larry Hamlin

An L A Times article shown below revealed the results of a UCLA and University of Chicago study showing that:

“A nearly two-decade effort by Californians to cut their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide may have been erased by a single, devastating year of wildfires”

The article notes that “researchers estimated that about 127 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent were released by the fires, compared with about 65 million metric tons of reductions achieved in the previous 18 years.”

The Times article provided the usual climate alarmist hype that “climate change” is responsible for the California’s increased wildfire damage noting:

“Forests have long played a role in that system, with large trees sequestering carbon and helping to alleviate some emissions. But California’s new breed of climate-change-fueled fires are burning hotter and faster than those of the past, sometimes slowing the regrowth process and even converting some areas from coniferous trees into grasslands, shrubs and chaparral, the researchers said.”

However a 2021 prior WUWT article addressed the fact that year 2020 wildfire emissions likely wiped out the state AB 32 emissions reductions and also addressed in detail the huge state government forest management failures that have contributed to the states wildfire growth and increasing risks over the past decade with these critical failures hidden from view in the Times article.  This prior WUWT article notes:

“California’s climate alarmists claim “climate change” is responsible for this wildfire outcome but an extensive 2018 California Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) report presents clear and compelling evidence demonstrating that decades of forest mismanagement by the state have in fact created the growing wildfire crisis. 

The LAO report notes that increased fire risks are present throughout California driven by forest conditions that have been allowed by the state to develop for decades.”

Provided below are some of the highlights (or lowlights) of the state governments forest management failures that have led directly to increased wildfire growth and risks that have nothing to do with “climate change” as addressed in the states LAO analysis and presented in the prior WUWT article.

The need for forest mechanical thinning and prescribed burning was addressed as follows in the LAO report:

The LAO report noted the failure to deal with huge numbers of the state’s dead and dining trees as follows:

“In addition to increasing fire risk, overcrowded forests and the associated competition for resources can also make forests less resilient to withstanding other stressors. For example, trees in dense stands become more vulnerable to disease—including infestations of pests such as bark beetles—and less able to endure water shortages from drought conditions.

This vulnerability has been on display in recent years, as an estimated 129 million trees in California’s forests died between 2010 and 2017, including over 62 million dying in 2016 alone. While this is a relatively small share of the over 4 billion trees in the state, historically, about one million of California’s trees would die in a typical year. Moreover, most of the die‑off is occurring in concentrated areas. For example, the Sierra National Forest has lost nearly 32 million trees, representing an overall mortality rate of between 55 percent and 60 percent. When dead trees fall to the ground they add more dry combustible fuel for fires, as well as pose risks to public safety when they fall onto buildings, roads, and power lines.”

The LAO report addressed how these prior described failures contributed to increasing the state forests wildfire growth and risks noting:

The failure to deal with the need for increasing the declining timber harvesting also contributed to the states increasing wildfire risks with the LAO report noting: 

“These trends are due to a variety of factors, including changes in state and federal timber harvesting policies. For example, several federal laws were passed in the 1970s that shifted the USFS’s forest management objectives away from production forestry and more toward conservation and ecosystem management. Those laws included the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—which requires federal agencies to evaluate any actions that could have a significant effect on the environment—and the Endangered Species Act—which prohibits federal agencies from carrying out actions that might adversely affect a species listed as threatened or endangered. Environmental protection policies have also contributed to declines in private harvests, along with other factors.” 

The Times article confirms the fact that California wildfire emissions in year 2020 wiped out the states 18 years of hugely costly efforts to reduce its emissions. It also suggests needs for the state to continue these efforts in the future with even more aggressive targets.

Such ridiculous hype completely ignores the complete irrelevance of California, or the U.S., or the EU or the UK from doing anything to reduce global emissions given that the world’s developing nations control global energy use and emissions, and these emissions will climb by billions of metric tons regardless of what the clueless climate alarmists claim. 

Since the year 2003 as mentioned in the Times article for measuring the start of the state’s reductions global CO2 emissions have climbed by over 8.1 billion metric tons with the developing nations responsible for over 10.6 billion metric tons of increased emissions (compared to California’s pathic 67 million metric tons absent the states wildfire emissions) during this period. The combined efforts of the U.S., UK and EU during this period saw about 2 billion metric tons of reductions with this massively costly reduction meaning absolutely nothing on the global stage while driving up energy costs, lowering energy reliability and bringing havoc to the economies of the UK and EU which Biden and the Democrats are bringing to the U.S.

What a load of crap.           

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October 21, 2022 6:05 pm

Obviously the solution is carbon sequestration – chop all the trees down, chip them for compact storage, and bury them in a cave somewhere. That way, when intelligent life finally emerges on this planet, they’ll have access to a shallow depth seam of coal to grow their economy.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
October 21, 2022 11:53 pm

Absolutely right. In addition, in order to accelerate the coal formation process, I would suggest – if someone is still there after the chip storage phase is complete – to massively bombard all those caves with nukes.

Nothing is more valuable than securing the future of humanity.

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Eric Worrall
October 22, 2022 12:40 am

Nearly got it Eric….

The word and process you were looking for and describing is Hugelkultur
With all due respect, I’d suggest that food is of higher priority than coal.

And, there is already plenty intelligent life on this Earth, it’s just that right now, in our sugar & alcohol addicted haze, we are not it

John Tillman
October 21, 2022 6:17 pm

Sadly, the high forest fire emissions came because California wouldn’t let piles of slash, built up into the crowns of trees, be burnt under control because of emissions standards. So the piles built up until whoosh! super emissions at one fell swoop.

The insanity. It burns! Literally.

Steve Case
October 21, 2022 6:23 pm

LA Times reveals 2020 CA Wildfire CO2 Wiped Out 18 Years of the State’s Emissions Reductions.________________________________

Awe! Poor babies.

October 21, 2022 6:39 pm

So the worry over reductions in “carbon-sinks” by thinning forests and controlled burns of undergrowth will now be the main reason not to do this life-saving maintenance instead of spotted owls? I pity California Republicans having to live in a beautiful state that is rapidly being destroyed by Democrats.

Reply to  stinkerp
October 22, 2022 7:23 am

I suspect there may be more spotted owls in California than there are Republicans in positions of power.

Ron Long
October 21, 2022 6:46 pm

California wildfires and Chinese coal, oh my! Don’t stop virtue signaling though. Stupid and proud of it.

October 21, 2022 6:56 pm

I can still see the press conference held near the end of the Woolsey Fire incident when President Trump met Gov Jerry Brown (outgoing) and Gov Gavin Newsom (incoming) on the beach in Malibu, the president offering federal emergency relief funds while stressing the importance of forest management. They nodded their heads and ignored everything he said, bent on their environmentalist climate agenda.
Mean tweets and all, seems President Trump was sort of correct.

Richard Page
Reply to  Rhee
October 22, 2022 4:01 am

Trump was sort of correct on several points where others were massively wrong.

October 21, 2022 7:15 pm

The first issue is the unfounded belief that CO2 has any direct impact on Earth’s energy balance.

Then to move onto the really silly notion that California buying “renewable” energy extractors and batteries from China is going to reduce global CO2 output. China presently consumes 4,300,000,000 tonnes of coal and it continues to climb in order to meet the developed world’s demand for the NutZero stuff.

October 21, 2022 7:41 pm

Unfortunately this is the type of news some, don’t know how many, rely on.

Reply to  markl
October 21, 2022 8:47 pm

Low information voters they are called

Kit P
October 21, 2022 7:50 pm

First I would question if Califonia has done anything to reduce ghg emissions over the last 20 years. Having lived in Califonia and worked at a now closed nuke plant, I have noticed many misleading smoke and mirror statements.

As a result of losing my nuke job in Califonia, I ended up in Washington State on among other things forest heath issues, Now that the air and water has been cleaned up in the US, our biggest environmental problem is forest health in the semi-arid west.

One solution is removing excess wood and burning it to make electricity.

The problem is demographics. Not a lot of voters in the semi-arid west’.

For the idiots at WUWT who have one issue, I am not saying burning wood is a good solution for climate change. I am saying it one of many solutions to a real environmental problem.

Reply to  Kit P
October 21, 2022 10:27 pm

Agree, wood *should* be used, despite city dwellers having opinions on how.

Just checked a clear cut acre yesterday, it is growing really fast. We just need more options to do forestry neatly without making such a mess.

Burning wood is a better idea than leaving it to rot, meaning emissions, no energy. At 420ppm, forest grows faster and the cycle shortens.

Reply to  Dorn
October 22, 2022 4:01 am

“Burning wood is a better idea than leaving it to rot,…”

Partially, yes, but there are all sorts of beasties that depend on rotting wood. Don’t deprive them of their chance of life.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Disputin
October 22, 2022 5:42 am

There is a vast amount of rotting wood in the forests on North America- even in clearcuts since much of the wood isn’t removed- either because the cut tree is defective or too small to utilize of of a species with no market. Most clearcuts I’ve seen in New England result in MORE rotting wood on the ground than there was BEFORE the clearcut. As a forester, I prefer to not clearcut- mostly I thin by removing about 30-40% of the wood- consisting of the trees that are financially mature or too defective to ever become quality sawlogs. But I have seen some nicely done clearcuts- usually 5 acres or smaller- including on the Quabbin Watershed, the water source for Boston.

Reply to  Disputin
October 22, 2022 10:21 am

Right but no amount of wood in the forest makes the bug people stop bugging us. Thinking (them thinking!) humanity is about to die because of CO2 emissions, it’s weird how fervently they want more rotting wood.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Dorn
October 22, 2022 5:38 am

The violent opposition to clearcutting in past decades was due to the fact that so much of it was excessively large cuts- sometimes thousands of acres regardless of terrain- some too steep and some in/near wetlands. Small clearcuts can be excellent forestry when carefully thought out. And, much of forestry work doesn’t require clearcuts- instead, careful thinning.

Richard Page
Reply to  Kit P
October 22, 2022 4:04 am

Burning wood as part of a managed forest shouldn’t be anything to do with climate change or lack thereof.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Richard Page
October 22, 2022 5:43 am

Right on- nice to see such pro forestry opinions here. In the past whenever I suggested that some of the wood removed in good forestry projects should be used for energy, I got slammed sufficiently to avoid the topic.

Kit P
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
October 22, 2022 10:02 am

Using excess wood is something local foresters and environmental activist can agree on. Organized a conference with funding form the EPA in the basement of the Forest service office. We showed how the wood could be used with existing technology. The PUD was on board because it helped their customers and it was also their.

Historically, natural fires cleaned the forest. However, years of fighting fires results in fire the destroy the forest and kill people

The barrier to doing anything was environmental groups from the big city using the courts to block everything.

That was 30 years. Year after year

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Kit P
October 22, 2022 5:35 am

“One solution is removing excess wood and burning it to make electricity.”

Exactly! I base my opinion on 50 years as a professional forester.

Jeff Alberts
October 21, 2022 7:51 pm

The Times article confirms the fact that California wildfire emissions in year 2020 wiped out the states 18 years of hugely costly efforts to reduce its emissions.”

Isn’t Hugely Costly a Ca Govt employee?

Stan Sexton
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
October 21, 2022 8:50 pm

Yes. Curtis Ishii is a retired CALPERS employee. His yearly pension is $427,000. That’s a lot of emissions.

Reply to  Stan Sexton
October 22, 2022 7:39 am

$427,000 ?!? I could try to get by on that if I cut back on nonessentials.

Old Man Winter
October 21, 2022 7:56 pm

Since California has a drier, warmer Mediterranean climate, it’s made to
burn. Like the Oz Natives, CA Natives used annual controlled burns so that
4M-12M acres burned/yr (CA has 100MA total area). Propublica cited that in
Feb 2020, “Nature Sustainability” stated that CA would need to burn 20 MA—
an area about the size of Maine— to restabilize in terms of fire. There
goes CO2 reduction for a few more decades!

(One smart thing CA did was to use goats to clear brush & vegetation in
hillier areas.)

List of California wildfires
Footnote [8]- (NPR)-
“4 Million Acres Have Burned In California. Why That’s The Wrong Number To Focus On”
“To Manage Wildfire, California Looks To What Tribes Have Known All Along”

Old Man Winter
Reply to  Old Man Winter
October 21, 2022 8:54 pm

Source for the CA fire area graph above:

Here’s the US acreage:

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Old Man Winter
October 21, 2022 9:33 pm

As I understand it, a typical aborigine family lit tiny fires many times a year to make it easier when they got hungry to see game, to herd game if possible and to get within easier killing distance. Example, getting goannas up trees, easier to hit. Remember that these people were barefoot and without medicines or bandages to treat burns, so a big fire with burning logs that took hours before walking was safe was not any hunting gain for them. There is serious doubt whether they used concepts like changing the natural growth patterns of vegetation over generations.œ
If these patterns of many, tiny fires led to a desirable distribution of vegetation that had fewer big, harmful fires, that seems more like an unintended consequence than legendary tribal wisdom that has to be glorified, as seems trendy for onlooker people who have not been there, done that.
Big fires in those days were little fires that became uncontrolled, including those caused by lightning.
Geoff S

Old Man Winter
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
October 22, 2022 12:01 am

Thanks for the insight. Natives in the wooded areas of Kentucky &
Tennessee- east of the grassy plains- burned woods to make clearings for grass to grow so bison could graze there, too.

Reply to  Old Man Winter
October 21, 2022 10:31 pm

Collect the excess wood for energy, then burn the floor. This makes it safer and you’ll get the energy.

But environmentalists want it grow until it burns by itself. Then they get useless emissions. Clap clap.

Reply to  Old Man Winter
October 22, 2022 4:05 am

I lived in California for many years. I had a house which was the last house before Topanga State Park. There were goats penned in the park and a goat herder would take them out daily to eat the brush. That ended and no one knew why. There were some controlled burns and I remember one that got out of control. Many fires torched the hills in the Santa Monica mountains and also impacted Malibu homes burning many to the ground.
California regularly sees fires, torrential rain, floods, mudslides (saw houses on the bluffs above PCH slide down to the highway) and earthquakes. The house was ~6miles from the Northridge earthquake..that was memorable; fortunately the house was on bedrock. Hardly climate change for any of those weather problems and fires and of course some idiots have blamed climate change for earthquakes.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Old Man Winter
October 22, 2022 8:36 am

How exactly did “natives” do controlled burns?

October 21, 2022 8:35 pm

”The LAO report noted the failure to deal with huge numbers of the state’s dead and dining trees as follows:”

Dining trees???

Reply to  aussiecol
October 21, 2022 10:34 pm

Our trees die, in Kali they dine.

October 21, 2022 8:37 pm

Yep, same as Australia, instead of blaming incompetent forest management, blame ‘climate change’.

Stan Sexton
October 21, 2022 8:47 pm

Most fires are man-caused, especially PyroTerrorism. Look that up on Google.

Geoff Sherrington
October 21, 2022 9:14 pm

Trees. Whether they burn fast or just decay away slower at end of life, they produce much the same weight of CO2 into the air. There is variation on short and long time scales of when and how fast these processes happen, but they happen. Some trees in long times convert to coal, which delays CO2 emission, but it happens when we use their stored energy. Timing of when and how fast again. This might be important if large global effects were possible by doing something fast and now, like in our lifetimes. What is happening is that a burst of CO2 whose origins are not well known is causing faster growth of existing plants that thrive on CO2 as food. What is wrong with that? Is it not a Nature feedback at work to protect the earth as it has forever? Give it time to work. Sit back, relaxed, to enjoy watching the Sahara revegetate with potential for us to grow new crops to feed our population.
I wonder about the sanity of researchers who imagine that puny Mankind can affect natural processes of the scale of these.
Geoff S

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
October 22, 2022 5:50 am

No less than Yale Environment 360 says:

As Carbon Dioxide Grows More Abundant, Trees Are Growing Bigger, Study Finds

Trees are feasting on decades of carbon dioxide emissions and growing bigger as a result, according to a new study of U.S. forests.

Scientists tracked wood volume in 10 different tree groups from 1997 to 2017, finding that all except aspen-birch grew larger. Over that same period, carbon dioxide levels went from 363 parts per million to 405 parts per million, owing largely to the burning of fossil fuels. More abundant CO2 accelerates photosynthesis, causing plants to grow faster, a phenomenon known as “carbon fertilization.” The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

But then it makes the mistake of saying we should just allow all trees to grow- rather than managing forests for human use.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
October 22, 2022 5:53 pm

Thanks, JZ.
Personally, I disagree with “owing largely to the burning of fossil fuels.” The jury is still out on this. I’ll accept some contribution, but there has long been argument about how much is natural. Unsettled.
My wife grows, breeds, (shows blooms in competitions) ornamental Camellia trees as a hobby, since 1985. Even we interested amateurs can see the increase in vigour over that time. The poor things are starving at less CO2 in the air than we have today. We now add less other fertilizers than before, when we were trying to make up for CO2 starvation. Here is one of her International registrations, a bloom some 7 inches from side to side. Geoff S

Shoki Kaneda
October 21, 2022 10:12 pm

Gee, if they spent a few of those giga dollars pissed away on green wet dreams, they could have avoided most of this with sane forest management.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Shoki Kaneda
October 22, 2022 5:51 am

Most states and the USFS have decent forestry agencies- but they are held back by lunatic greens who hate all tree cutting to “save the Earth from climate change”.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
October 22, 2022 8:09 am

The Forestry Division in my 4-season Midwest State does a good job. When they need to thin some trees and clear out the scrub trees in the State Parks, they pile the cuttings in convenient places and post “Free Firewood” signs with only a few rules and restrictions. (No commercial wood companies allowed. Safety is on you. Cut at your own risk.)

It gets cold here and people like their fireplaces. We haven’t had a tree hugger protest for 30 or so years. 😁 Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last big forest fire in our State.

Oh. They also manage fall down by putting up signs on the trails permitting the gathering of any fall down. They move the “Gathering Permitted” signs around as needed. No sign? No gathering, usually to allow some wildlife cover to remain.

Smart cookies. They don’t pay much to keep the State forests healthy.

Ian Magness
October 21, 2022 11:20 pm

Soooo, burning forests increases CO2 in the atmosphere? Who’d have thunk? Fans of Drax and similar biofuel abominations take note.
Oh, what’s that you say? Under emissions accounting rules, that biofuel-created CO2 doesn’t count? Oh, that’s all right then – burn baby burn – you know it’ll save the planet.

Frank S.
October 21, 2022 11:47 pm

“Forest management” is logical, but impractical from a logging perspective. In-roads need to be cut to be able to safely remove the felled trees. Such a compromise is far better than clear cutting. Washington’s hillsides were moonscapes for years after such egregious practices.

Peta of Newark
October 22, 2022 12:31 am

CO2 is a symptom of the malaise, not the cause.
The forest is diseased-riddled, weak and burning because it is hungry.

Feed the trees & forest and they/it will do all the things that everyone (I do mean ‘everyone‘) wants it to do.

It’s not as if the required ‘food’ is in short supply or difficult to find.
But our current insanity has made us blind – we will walk off a cliff edge if we don’t sort it

Steve Richards
October 22, 2022 1:37 am

The obvious solution must be to completely eradicate these troublesome forests! /s

Michael in Dublin
October 22, 2022 2:12 am

I lived for some years in an area with a Mediterraean climate. We had regular fires that did much good but became problematic as the increasing amount of alien vegetation resulted in far more damage than good. Teams of unemployed people were given jobs to remove the densest alien vegetation and replace it with indigenous plants and trees. This has allowed fires to quickly sweep though these areas clearing them of undergrowth with no long lasting damage to many trees.

October 22, 2022 3:57 am

Step one: Create carbon emissions reduction scheme that disincentivizes forest management.

Step two: Blame wildfires on climate change.

Step three: Increase carbon emissions reduction incentives. Repeat step two.

“That changed over much of the country – however – with the Kyoto protocol. Maintenance of open woodland was discouraged. Prescribed burning was included in emissions – wildfires were not.”-Hydrologist Robert Ellison

Too much attention on renewables detracts from grid maintenance which increases fire risk. Increased variability does so too. Not to mention CO2 fertilization means management of fuel load is all the more important

CO2 increases water availability & resilience. It improves soils moisture & resilience. It increases plant growth. It reduces fire frequency, but increases fuel growth. It makes good land management all the more important. Climate policy has worked against good management.

Ewin Barnett
October 22, 2022 4:28 am

Notice how government gets to claim more power and control over our lives by the need to rectify the effects of a failure of… wait for it… a failure of government.

October 22, 2022 4:45 am

Seems to me that the situation on the streets of SF and LA kind of parallels the “don’t touch the forests” mess. Just leave all that homeless mess to accumulate, and pretty soon the cities will ignite. Uncontrolled car jackings, smash and grabs and assault, anyone?

October 22, 2022 6:08 am

What do you get when you compare two contrived, essentially meaningless statistics?

Paul Hurley (aka PaulH)
October 22, 2022 6:44 am

And how many government imposed “emissions reductions” are wiped out by volcanic eruptions?

Matt Kiro
October 22, 2022 7:05 am

If only they had harvested a lot more wood for timber to make products that humans would use. All that carbon would still sequestered!!

October 22, 2022 9:26 am

So, the nature they protected by letting nature do it’s thing destroyed all their environmental efforts while burning homes and people.

Perhaps the money needed for forest management went elsewhere with the blame that much went to the electric companies which they financially strapped with fines. What else could go wrong with people like this in charge.

Hoyt Clagwell
October 22, 2022 10:13 am

“researchers estimated that about 127 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent were released by the fires, compared with about 65 million metric tons of reductions achieved in the previous 18 years.”
Hold on, this statement says that the fires produced TWICE as much carbon dioxide as what we have saved through emissions reductions in the last 18 years. Wouldn’t that be ALL of the emissions reductions ever made in CA? And what about the fact that part of CA burns EVERY YEAR?
This should demonstrate to any thinking person what a complete folly it is to spend any money or energy on reducing manmade CO2 emissions.

Mike Dubrasich
October 22, 2022 11:29 am

Darn that emissions -> warming -> fires -> emissions vicious cycle feedback loop spiralling into the Hotpocalypse. Whacha gonner do?

Easy. More taxes: higher, bigger, all-consuming. Tax everything. Ban fossil fuels. Spend trillions quadrupling down on stupid. Wreck the economy. Go commie. Ban childbirth. Make the people huddle in the cold and dark in mud huts while starving to death.

That’ll fix the climate and stop forest fires, too. Just the ticket. Become a serf and go hungry for Gaia to repair the ecology and Save the Planet.


October 22, 2022 3:05 pm

Nature always has the upper hand over Man. This avoids the mess that would result if men were in charge of the weather.

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