McSally turns a blind eye to the climate change that’s fueling our wildfires and threatening Arizona lives

July 26, 2019 3:34 pm

An aircraft drops slurry on the Museum Fire near Flagstaff on July 21. Photo by Taylor McKinnon/@publiccarbon | Twitter

For any city, one natural disaster is a nightmare. Right now, Flagstaff is dealing with two at once. 

The Museum Fire, which is currently only 12% contained, continues to threaten homes, with thousands of people on alert for a possible evacuation order. At the same time, monsoon thunderstorms combined with newly burned areas have created ideal conditions for mudslides and flash flooding

As city workers and emergency personnel work to provide supplies and information, Sen. Martha McSally is bragging that her team is on the ground helping fill sandbags.

Given her refusal to acknowledge climate change, one of the primary factors behind this year’s devastating disasters, that’s nothing short of insulting. 

Fires have always been part of life among in Arizona’s brushlands and pine forests, but as the climate warms, they are becoming bigger, more intense and more frequent. Some parts of Arizona could see a 500% increase in the acres burned each year by 2050. And experts say that, in the face of climate change, saving even half of Arizona’s forests will be a herculean task. 

As wildfires burn bigger and hotter, the danger grows. A recent analysis by The Arizona Republic identified dozens of Arizona towns with high wildfire potential and limited evacuation routes. In places like Pine, Show Low, and Globe, quick-moving wildfires could trap residents in their homes or on roads as they attempt to escape, as happened in the deadly blaze in Paradise, Calif., in 2018. 

In Pine, for instance, a summer camp for girls houses hundreds of children in a narrow, forested canyon with only one road out. 

Climate change is also making Arizona’s monsoon thunderstorms more intense and more frequent, contributing to the chances of serious flooding or mudslides in the aftermath of a fire. 

And yet, even as the risks and the damages mount, one of Arizona’s U.S. senators refuses to acknowledge that we have a problem. 

Sen. Martha McSally denies the connection between fossil fuel emissions and global warming, saying only that there is  “likely” a human element to climate change. She’s refused to support keeping the U.S. in the Paris Accords and has voted repeatedly against allowing the federal government to consider climate change in making decisions and policy. 

She’s even voted against funding basic climate science research. 

McSally has accepted $489,505 in campaign donations from oil and gas companies over the course of her career, making it hard to avoid the conclusion that her positions are influenced by her desire to keep her donors happy. 

And that figure doesn’t even include the $154,000 she’s taken from mysterious billionaire Paul Singer, one of the primary bankrollers of the climate denial movement. 

Martha McSally has chosen to prioritize campaign cash over serious climate action and human lives. Arizona deserves better.

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Emily Kirkland
Emily Kirkland

Emily Kirkland is the executive director at Progress Arizona, a progressive watchdog organization working to expose the powerful for their misdeeds and promote a vision of our state that works for everyone.