President Trump may have finally named a science advisor, but that doesn't mean his tweets have become any more scientific.
On Sunday night, Trump decided to give his two cents on the devastating wildfires that are currently burning throughout California.
In the tweet, Trump blamed the exceptional wildfires not on the reality of a rapidly warming planet (as the scientific consensus suggests), but on the "bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized."
He complained that the water necessary to put out these fires is being "diverted into the Pacific Ocean," and then he suggested that California should clear more trees to stop fires from spreading in the future.
California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2018
The next morning, he was back at it, holding California's governor, Jerry Brown, personally responsible for upholding the natural course of the state's waterways.
Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water - Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2018
These tweets show a mind-boggling misunderstanding of the entire issue, and they have got to be some of the president's most scientifically inaccurate and ignorant comments on the environment to date.
Because as much as President Trump would like "bad environmental laws" to be the issue here, this is merely his scapegoat for a much larger problem.
"The scientific consensus has predicted worsening fire hazard due to land use change with expanding settlement in the wildland-urban interface, and trends of increasing temperature and drought severity associated with climate change," Maureen Kennedy, an expert in ecology and resource management at the University of Washington-Tacoma, explained to us.
"The tragedy of recent California fires are all consistent with these predictions, and they are sadly not surprising to those who are familiar with the science," she added.
Clearly, President Trump is not one of those people, but exactly how accurate are his tweets? We spoke to Glen MacDonald, a UCLA scientist who studies the causes and impacts of climate change, about whether he thinks water diversion may also be magnifying California's wildfires.
"I wouldn't say that that's true whatsoever," MacDonald told Science AF on the phone.
"What you're seeing is someone thinking about fire in an urban setting, like downtown New York or Queens. That's really different than fighting a wildfire in a place like northern California."
MacDonald says that even if we had more water from the Sacramento or San Joaquin rivers to fight these wildfires, it wouldn't make any difference because a lack of water isn't the problem.
Unlike fires in urban centers, in the areas burning outside city limits, fire hydrants and fire hoses are not fighting the flames. These sorts of fires are tackled using water bombers, which deploy fire retardant over the affected area and not water itself.
Besides, there have been no reports from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection that there are water shortages. In fact, a spokesperson from the department told the LA Times that there have been zero issues getting water to the fires, as many of them are located near bodies of water.
It's unclear exactly what environmental laws Trump thinks are monopolizing California's water supply, but he is most likely referring to federal or state rules that protect river ecosystems, like the Endangered Species Act.
Right now, in northern California, the vast majority of available water is used to grow crops, and the rest of the water is used for ecological function. The water runs down through the river systems and into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which naturally empties into the Pacific.