Eight months into 2012, 39 large wildfires continue to burn across the western U.S., having destroyed nearly 7 million acres of land - more than any year since records were first kept. As the blazes continue to consume forests and destroy homes, the climate change that spawned them is continuously being denied or ignored by Republicans.
The summer drought, the worst since the Dust Bowl, is fueling the flames, said Ken Frederick, a public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. With little relief expected over the next two months, the fires, which have left eight firefighters dead and charred a total area the size of Maryland, show no signs of slowing.
Meanwhile, right-wing climate change deniers continue to add insult to injury by rejecting science and painting activists as unbalanced conspiracy theorists. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., on the other hand, has painted himself as a shining example of just how clueless Republicans are about the environment.
In addition to insulting women everywhere by making a number of ignorant, controversial remarks about "legitimate rape," the GOP Senate candidate proved he was just as backward on the subject of climate change, when he stated in 2009 that global warming struck him as, "if it weren't so serious, as being a comedy, you know. I mean, we just went from winter to spring. In Missouri, when we go from winter to spring, that's good climate change. I don't want to stop that. Who in the world would put politicians in charge of the weather, anyway? What a dumb idea."
By claiming that in the case of "legitimate rape," the female body can "shut that whole thing down," Rep. Akin has already demonstrated that his knowledge of science is virtually non-existent. But just as with his misogynistic views, Akin's cluelessness on climate change seems to be, by and large, a reflection of Republicans on the whole.
Grist.org writer David Roberts explained, "The most significant force behind climate change denial is not any ineffable psychological mystery, but simply the increasing intensity and radicalization of the American conservative movement. The [r]ight is rejecting reality, and adopting a stance of ideological opposition to anything the non-[r]ight" supports.
On Akin's official website, he insisted, "The question of predicting future climate trends, as well as man's ability to definitely influence them, is still an active field of scientific research. Scientists state that the planet has gone through many natural heating and cooling cycles over the years."
Actually, that's not at all true, unless by "over the years," Akin is referring to "millions."
Over in the western U.S., the effects of climate change are anything but "good" - the ongoing brushfires present a very real threat to people, property, and wildlife.
The most recent example came in the form of a 21,500-acre northern California wildfire, which yesterday destroyed 50 buildings and forced the evacuation of 3,000 people from their homes. More than 200 buildings still remain under threat as firefighters struggle to battle the blaze.
Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer noted, "What we're really seeing here is a window into what global climate change looks like. It looks like heat; it looks like fires; it looks like this kind of environmental disaster."