SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom emphasized on Wednesday how climate change drives the state's growing wildfire season as he provided updates on California's ongoing struggle with over two dozen major fires.
The remarks came two days after President Donald Trump stepped straight into the raging debate over climate change and his administration's politics toward global warming.
During one part of an official's presentation on the wildfires, President Trump interjected, "It will start getting cooler, you just watch."
When California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot countered, "I wish science agreed with you," the President without hesitation said, "Well, I don't think science knows."
Newsom began his update on the California wildfires with data on the rise in average temperatures in the state during the summer months since 1980.
"You look over a 40-year-period, you're seeing the average temperatures between June and September here in the state of California increase from roughly 71 degrees to about 74 degrees," said Newsom. "While that may not seem significant -- three degrees -- it is profoundly impactful...This is a direct cause and effect to this experience we're currently having, this climate-induced, human-activity induced wildfire season."
Newsom said he feels there's that there is a "mutual responsibility" between the state government, the federal government and private land owners to do more and better in terms of vegetation management. He noted that he made this point "crystal clear" on Monday when President Trump was visiting the state for a wildfire update, and on Tuesday, when Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris visited,
However, Newsom also noted that the rising temperatures were more evidence proving that climate change remains an urgent issue that drives the explosive growth in the state's wildfire season from year to year.
"The fundamental fact cannot be denied, represented in this chart, and the reality of average temperatures significantly increasing. And you see that trend line that is not going in the right direction, is going in a direction that only underscores our sense of urgency to address head on the issue of climate and climate change and to double down on our efforts here in the state of California," Newsom said.
Newsom said the state has always led combating climate change and the cause knows no political party, as previous governors have consistently worked to become national models on the issue, including Governor Ronald Reagan, who established the state Air Resources Board in 1970.
"We need to reconcile the fact that there are no Democratic thermometers and no Republican thermometers. There's fact and there's reality as well as observed evidence. It's not a belief system, it's an acknowledgement. The facts are the facts. It's not a question of one's belief. It's whether or not you will acknowledge the facts as they are presented, the facts that are in evidence. And we certainly acknowledge them and we know it's our responsibility to do more still in this space."
Newsom looked back on the acres burned each year over the past decade to help illustrate how the current year had already outpaced earlier record years in 2017 and 2018 by over a million acres, with the current total of 3,371,624 acres.
"It gives you a sense of the challenges we're facing and the challenges we will face moving into the future that will require us to be more flexible, less ideological and more committed to the collective cause of organizing strategies to keep people safe, and our adaptability and our resiliency so we can work through this challenge and this climate-induced crisis; this emergency that we're facing not only as a state and a nation, but as a globe and as a world people," said Newsom.
The governor said California has had 7,860 fires that have cost the state 25 lives and thousands of structures in the month since the lightning-sparked wildfires bloomed across the state as residence endured a historic heat wave that contributed to the hottest August on record.
25 major fires or complexes of fires are continuing to burn as of Wednesday, with over 17,000 firefighters and 2,200 engaged in battles across the state, Newsom said. He also offered thanks for mutual aid received both within the U.S. from Texas and New Jersey and internationally from Israel and Canada.
The governor highlighted both the Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties and the North Complex Fire stretching across Lassen, Plumas and Butte counties as being the main source of current concern, but also pointed out the progress that had been made in the large lightning-sparked LNU and CZU Lightning Complexes that were gradually approaching 100 percent containment.
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