Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden attacked President Donald Trump on Monday for denying the reality of climate change, calling it an existential crisis that should be tackled aggressively as fires raged across the Western states and covered major cities in suffocating smoke.
Biden, pointing to fires in the West, hurricanes along the Gulf Coast and flooding in the Midwest, argued that Trump’s inaction on climate change has jeopardized Americans’ safety. Seeking to flip Trump’s re-election argument that the president is better suited to keep Americans — and in particular the suburbs — safe, Biden connected climate change to one of the many risks Americans are facing that have been exacerbated under Trump’s administration.
“He fails to protect us,” Biden said in a speech delivered outside the Delaware Museum of Natural History. “And from the pandemic, the economic freefall, the racial unrest, and the ravages of climate change, it’s clear that we are not safe in Donald Trump’s America.”
He added: “If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if more of America is ablaze?”
The former vice president called for immediate and wide-ranging action to stem the impacts of climate change, framing investments in clean energy as a way to create jobs and protect Americans. He called for restoring and expanding Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards, building and installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country and building 1.5 million new energy-efficient homes and public housing units.
“We can invest in our infrastructure to make it stronger, more resilient, improving the health of Americans and creating millions of good-paying jobs while at the same time tackling the root causes of climate change,” he said. “Or we could do it Donald Trump’s way: Ignore the facts, deny reality which amounts to a full surrender and a failure to lead.”
Across the West Coast, wildfires have burned more than 5 million acres (2.02 million hectares) and killed at least 24 people. The fires have forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes, many of which have been destroyed, and filled the air with smoke and ash, making it dangerous for people to be outside. The fires are the latest crisis besetting a country rocked by a pandemic, an economic recession and nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
Scientists say warmer conditions have worsened the fires this year, pointing to a clear link between climate change and the massive fires.
Trump is visiting McClellan Park, California, on Monday to be briefed on the wildfires. Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, will also travel to California on Monday night and visit with emergency service personnel on Tuesday.
Although Biden has been clear he does not support the Green New Deal, the Democratic nominee did introduce a $2 trillion clean energy plan as part of his economic agenda this summer. The plan, which was cheered by environmentalists, aims to expand the use of clean energy in transportation, electricity and construction. Still, progressives are pushing Biden to go further and adopt the entirety of the Green New Deal.
“When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, he thinks hoax. When I think about it, I think jobs, good paying union jobs,” Biden said. “I’ll put us back in the business of leading the world on climate change.”
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