U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney said Thursday that global climate change will make wildfires in Utah increasingly common and dangerous — so federal and state governments should spend big money to help prevent them and reduce their severity.
“It means wildfires are going to become a regular part of life and more and more dangerous,” he said at the Utah Capitol during a U.S. House Natural Resources Committee forum about wildfires. “We have to recognize that business as usual is not going to solve the problem. We have to step up in a far more aggressive way.”
It came after his Democratic opponent, Jenny Wilson, earlier this month attacked a Romney essay that called for increased efforts against wildfires. She said he largely ignored climate change — referring to it obliquely as “climate realities” — and Wilson said addressing climate change as a crisis is the way to protect the West.
While some key Republican conservatives question climate change, Romney made clear Friday that he believes it exists, and he said it requires big changes in forest management to prevent catastrophic wildfires.
“I happen to believe that the global climate change that you are seeing is going to continue even if we see all of the nations of the world abide by the Paris Accord," he said. "We’re still going to get warmer and warmer as a planet,” leading to hot, dry conditions that fuel and intensify fires.
The 2012 GOP presidential nominee added that wildfires in Utah and the West are “not just going to be ongoing but more severe” if nothing is done to prevent or mitigate them.
He proposed more work to reduce a buildup of fuels in forests, create more firebreaks and defensible areas around communities, establish more regional wildfire centers with aircraft and other equipment to quickly attack fires before they get big, and use more early-warning technology to identify fires as they start.
“These things I described cost a lot of money,” Romney said.
“I would propose that the financing of this major investment that is going to be required be split based upon who owns the land,” he said. “So the federal government has 66 percent of the land in Utah, so they pick up 66 percent of the costs. If they want a lower share of the costs, they can give the land back to us.”
Tim Aalders for Senate