Kamala Harris claims climate change caused deadly Maui wildfires

"Every day around the world, the impact of the climate crisis is stark and it is vivid. We are seeing it in real-time."

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
While on her second visit to Seattle since taking office, Vice President Kamala Harris attempted to blame the deadly wildfires in Hawaii on climate change, even though environmental experts are pointing to poor state land management practices.

Harris returned to the Emerald City to mark the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act being signed into law and touted how she and President Joe Biden “have committed nearly $1 trillion to build a thriving, clean energy economy for America.” Harris had to cast the tie-breaking vote on the legislation to get it passed the Senate.

While at McKinstry, a construction and energy company based in Seattle, Harris said, “One year ago, President Biden and I made the largest climate investment in America’s history. We are creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs, we are rebuilding America’s manufacturing, and we are driving American innovation – something this state knows so well.”

“Together, we are building a clean-energy economy and through all our work, President Biden and I are building an economy that works for working people.”

While accompanied by Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Seattle Democrat Mayor Bruce Harrell, Harris added, “Every day around the world, the impact of the climate crisis is stark and it is vivid. We are seeing it in real-time. Here, of course, in Washington state, you have endured deadly heat waves and devastating wildfires. And across our nation, we see communities choked by drought, washed out by flood, and decimated by hurricanes.”

She also said, “And of course, we are all praying for the people of Maui, far too many lives lost... homes lost, businesses lost, livelihoods lost. And of course, we have to recognize and pay special attention to the native Hawaiian community, which has seen some of their most sacred cultural sites destroyed.

“And so I will say that President Biden and I will continue to do all that we can to help the people of Hawaii. And both in terms of what they need now, but what they need in terms of recovery, and what they will need to rebuild.”

Clay Trauernicht, a University of Hawaii at Manoa professor and environmental management expert told Fox News, "Blaming this on weather and climate is misleading. Hawai'i's fire problem is due to the vast areas of unmanaged, nonnative grasslands from decades of declining agriculture."

He added, "These savannas now cover about a million acres across the main Hawaiian Islands, mostly the legacy of land clearing for plantation agriculture and ranching in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The transformation to savanna makes the landscape way more sensitive to bad 'fire weather' — hot, dry, windy conditions. It also means we get huge buildups of fuels during rainy periods."

He suggested that "…adequate support, planning, and resources for fuel reduction projects, agricultural land use, and restoration and reforestation around communities and the foot of our forests," could mitigate wildfire risk.

According to the outlet, Trauernicht submitted a letter to a local paper in 2019 warning of the risks. writing, "Maui is now firmly in the post-plantation era, and the West Maui fires are only the most recent example of what eventually happens when large, tropical grasslands go untended. But the fuels — all that grass — is the one thing that we can directly change to reduce fire risk."

The former dean of the College of Science and Engineering at San Francisco State University, Jim Steele, posted on X that Hawaii’s abandoned pineapple and sugar cane fields have caused invasive grasses that burn quickly to grow noting, "Alarmists are the true deniers avoiding the well established science of wildfires.”

Professor of earth sciences at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California Peter Vitousek told USA Today, "There is no doubt that fire-prone grasses have invaded drier Hawaiian ecosystems and brought larger, more intense fires.”

The Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization noted that the overwhelming majority of the state's fires are caused by dry brush or human activity. According to the organization’s website, "Over 98 percent of wildfires are human-caused. Human ignitions coupled with an increasing amount of nonnative, fire-prone grasses and shrubs and a warming, drying climate have greatly increased the wildfire problem."

On Thursday, Herman Andaya, the Administrator of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, resigned in the wake of criticism and global media attention after he expressed no regrets for the decision to not activate warning sirens as the wildfire approached Lahaina, which later led to the destruction of the historic town.

Utility provider Hawaii Electric is also facing scrutiny over the role its power lines may have played in sparking the blaze. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2019, Hawaii Electric promised to address wildfire risk by updating its infrastructure, but pushed to convert to renewable energy instead.

Additionally, M. Kaleo Manuel, a state water official, allegedly delayed the release of water that landowners requested to help protect their property from fires until it was too late. He was reassigned over the weekend.

Harris also spent part of her trip meeting with high school graduates to hear how the Inflation Reduction Act is positively impacting the future workforce, and then traveled to the wealthy Medina area to attend a campaign fundraising event at the residence of Beth McCaw and Yahn Bernier, in support of the Biden Victory Fund which was co-hosted by Microsoft president Brad Smith.

Donors at the event forked over $5,000-$50,000 per person, with some tiers including a photo with Harris.

Harris visited Seattle last October to promote electric school buses. However, during her trip, it was revealed all of the electric buses in one local school district were out of service due to a lack of parts and mechanics trained on the new technology.

Last week it was announced that Proterra Inc, an electric vehicle company repeatedly praised by the Biden administration as the United States' key to dominating the field on a global scale, filed for bankruptcy.
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