Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) told constituents over the weekend that climate change "is a total fraud" designed by liberals to create "global government." Now Rohrabacher wants to have a public debate where he would presumably be expected to present facts that could help him prove this statement.
The GOP congressman and renowned climate science denier -- and also a member of the House Science Committee -- issued a challenge to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) over the weekend, after the Democrat suggested the current uncharacteristically extreme wildfire season warranted a serious discussion about how climate change is affecting the temperature and length of the state's dry season.
"I challenge Barbara Boxer to a debate on climate change, on global warming," Rohrabacher said, according to CBS Los Angeles. "I challenge her to defend her positions, and not just call a bunch of names, not just try to scare the public into accepting her expansion of government power over our lives."
The California Republican also accused Boxer of taking advantage of the ongoing blazes to push an environmental agenda.
"I think this exemplifies the tactics — the scare tactics — of those who’ve been pushing this global warming fraud on us," he said. "They’ll take something that is dramatic, like a fire, and try and use that; or a tornado, or a hurricane and say 'see, people are being hurt.'"
A Boxer aide said the senator "stands by her statement" about severe wildfires being connected to climate change, but wouldn't comment on the possibility of a debate with Rohrabacher.
The California wildfire season is still young but, as the Associated Press recently reported, it has already scorched a massive swath of land:
California fire officials have battled 4,300 wildfires, a stark increase from the yearly average of nearly 3,000 they faced from 2008 to 2012, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Until last week, those fires had already burned 111 square miles or more than 71,000 acres, up from 40,000 acres during the same period last year. The annual average for acreage charred in the last five years was 113,000 acres, he said – roughly 177 square miles.
It is expected to get worse when the Santa Ana winds arrive later in the summer, fanning any unextinguished flames.
California officials recently warned that climate change, which is contributing to higher temperatures and drier conditions in fire-prone areas, was putting the state at risk of further damage. While the link isn't new, a report from the state's Environmental Protection Agency also found some particularly disturbing trends on wildfire data.
Since 1950, the report found, the three worst forest fire years in California -- measured by acres burned -- all have occurred in the past decade: 2003, 2007 and 2008. And the average number of acres scorched every year since 2000 is almost double the average of the previous 50 years -- 598,000 acres annually now, compared with 264,000 acres a year then.
"Climate change is not just some abstract scientific debate," said California EPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez. "It’s real, and it’s already here."
Jen Bendery contributed reporting.