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VICTOR JOECKS: Don’t blame global warming for Maui wildfires

Climate change means never having to say you’re sorry for your own poor choices. Just look at how politicians are responding after Maui’s deadly wildfires.

President Joe Biden finally visited the devastated island on Monday. He quickly made it obvious why he stayed away for so long. He appeared to fall asleep during an event honoring victims of the fire. He looked lost while exiting a stage.

Senior moments may be inevitable for someone 80 years old, but they can’t explain this. He told fire victims that he had a “little sense of what it’s like to lose a home.” Fifteen years ago, he said, a lightning strike started a fire in his home. “I almost lost my wife, my ’67 Corvette and my cat,” he said.

Biden seems to think empathy means sharing a story that’s tangentially related to the subject at hand. It’s a bizarre habit. Mourning with those who mourn doesn’t mean making yourself the subject of the conversation. Worse, this story is false. As The Associated Press wrote at the time, it was a “small fire that was contained to the kitchen.” His wife reported the blaze, which was under control in 20 minutes.

An inappropriate, inaccurate yarn that likely would earn a Republican president the endless wrath of the national mainstream media. But unsurprisingly, they’re giving Biden a pass.

Biden isn’t the only one inappropriately trying to change the subject.

“I know that there is debate out there whether we should be talking about climate change or not,” Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said in a Sunday interview. “Well, let’s be real. Climate change is here. We are in the midst of it with a hotter planet and fiercer storms.”

He’s not alone. “Biden faces calls to declare climate emergency as he heads to Maui,” Politico reported Sunday. A Washington Post opinion piece from Eugene Robinson declared, “Climate change came for Maui. The rest of us are next.”

Even if you buy into the hysteria, this is a misguided approach. It glosses over the mountain of mistakes made by local officials. That list includes in-the-moment decisions such as a state official delaying the release of water needed to fight the fire.

Herman Andaya, who’s since resigned, ran the agency responsible for sounding the emergency sirens. They weren’t activated, even though power outages prevented residents from receiving emergency text and TV alerts. Andaya didn’t have a background in emergency management. It appears his political connections got him the job.

Then there are longer-term problems. Hawaii has lost more than 20 dams in the past two decades. That reduced its water storage and ability to irrigate land, which would have made it more fire resistant. The state has failed to address the spread of an invasive and highly burnable grass. The state electricity utility knew for years that its infrastructure could spark a fire but has done little to address it.

Politicians could have fixed these things, but they didn’t. No wonder they want to point the finger at global warming.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 7 a.m. with Kevin Wall on AM 670 KMZQ “Right Talk” Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on X.

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