CBS journalist Scott Pelley recently visited Butte County, California, to report on the wildfires devastating the Golden State.
Government statistics show that more than 8,300 wildfires have burned some 4 million acres to date. The flames have claimed 31 lives and destroyed nearly 8,700 structures. One of those structures belonged to Fire Station 61 Chief Reed Rankin, who saw his home reduced to a charred skeleton after a September blaze.
“[It’s] nothin’ but a foundation with a metal roof on top of it,” Rankin, who has spent more than 28 years as a firefighter, told Pelley. “It’s completely burned down.”
CBS had a wonderful opportunity to explore the devastating impact and causes of California’s fires. Unfortunately, it was an opportunity missed. The 60 Minutes segment focused primarily on climate change, a topic that is covered in depth virtually every single day.
California’s historic wildfires received scant attention, and all but the most attuned viewers would have concluded that the wildfires are simply the result of global warming. That’s because Pelley spent a total of seven seconds of the 13-minute segment explaining a primary cause of California’s megafires.
“Climate isn’t the only reason,” Pelley says of the wildfires at one point. “Decades of aggressively putting out every forest fire allowed brush to pile up like kindling.”
Pelley is correct. There is a widespread scientific consensus that California’s aggressive efforts to suppress fire have made the state ripe for megafires. But this is the last 60 Minutes viewers hear on the mismanagement of California’s forests.
Unexpectedly, as they say at Bloomberg.com: CBS ‘Global Warming Special’ Host [Scott Pelley] Likened Warming Skeptics to Holocaust Deniers.