FACT CHECK: Gavin Newsom Says California's Rainstorms Are 'Proof That the Climate Crisis Is Real'

Gavin Newsom (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
January 18, 2023

Claim: California storms are "proof that the climate crisis is real and we have to take it seriously."

Who said it: California's Democratic governor Gavin Newsom, whose claims about California's weather were echoed by Ellen DeGeneres, academics, and the Washington Post's Philip Bump.

Why it matters: Democrats across the country, and especially in California, use climate change as an excuse to ban gas cars, leaf blowers, propane heaters, and many other common household items that families will struggle financially to replace. By connecting major weather events such as the recent storms in California to climate change, politicians can convince people that sacrifices to their wallets and lifestyle are worth it.

Context: While Newsom and others are treating the string of storms as unprecedented, California has a long recorded history of extreme droughts, rains, floods, fires, and mudslides. The push to blame climate change for every twist and turn in the weather ignores the state's history.

The state has seen its fair share of massive storms, flooding, and erosion. In 1972, Albert Hammond sang that while it seems like "it never rains in California," in reality "it pours, man, it pours." Any Californian who lived through the 1990s is bound to remember the 1997 El Niño, which stretched into 1998 and was described by the Los Angeles Times as a "relentless string of storms" that overwhelmed flood control channels and washed away roads and railroad tracks. In 1861, a stretch of intense rains that began on Christmas Eve didn't stop for more than a month, according to Scientific American, and some of the state's waterways were permanently altered by the epic floods. California's entire Central Valley was turned into a 300-mile-long and 20-mile-wide sea. For a time after the flood, Sacramento could only be traversed by canoe.

The same is true for droughts. Immediately after the stretch of rain that flooded the state from 1861 to 1862, California was hit by a devastating drought that stretched two years. As the U.S. government has pointed out, California has chronicled major droughts since before climate experts even started experting. A Wikipedia catalogue reveals that the following stretches of "dry years" in California:

• 1841

• 1863–1864

• 1917–1921

• 1922–1926

• 1928–1937

• 1943–1951

• 1959–1962

• 1976–1977

• 1987–1992

• 1999-2004

• 2006–2009

• 2011-2017

• 2018

• 2020-2022

Wikipedia now has a note at the top of its catalogue of droughts warning readers that the page "needs attention from an expert in Climate Change" to address "insufficient documentation of the causes of the droughts." It is unclear whether climate scientists attribute the 19th-century extreme weather events to climate change.

Snow patterns have also inspired climate change scientists to make gloomy predictions that haven't turned out as expected. In 2019, as rainstorms pounded the state, the Sierra Mountains saw the fifth-highest snow levels on record—news that most Californians cheered, since agriculture and more than half the population rely on the snowmelt for fresh water.

Just a year later, in the middle of drought, the snowpack dwindled to half its usual levels, driving Discover magazine to warn of a parched future and urge new policies "to rein in emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases." By 2021, the snow levels were above average again, and thanks to the latest spate of storms, the state now has the highest levels recorded for January.


As another California troubadour tells us, "The seasons, they go round and round." The climate is constantly changing. Climate opportunists tweak their talking points with the weather, wailing about droughts one day, only to turn on a dime and moan about the rain replenishing the parched California reservoirs that once concerned them.

There is no evidence that climate change is to blame for weeks of rainstorms in California, which has long suffered from extreme weather.

Of course, none of this is actually about the weather. Climate change is just a way for Democrats to justify their push for flooding green energy projects with government money while bleeding taxpayers dry. California Democrats in particular use climate change as an excuse for their failure to follow through on pledges to better prepare the state for disasters through effective wildfire mitigation and other measures.

Verdict: We rate this claim 4 Clintons.
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