U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden branded Donald Trump a “climate arsonist”, after the current occupant of the White House poured gasoline on his own, unique brand of firestorm Monday, during a visit to the wildfire-ravaged state of California.
“If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned in wildfires?” Biden asked, after the serially-bankrupt real estate magnate questioned the “undeniable, accelerating, punishing reality” of the climate emergency during an encounter with an actual climate scientist. “How many suburban neighbourhoods will have been flooded out? How many suburbs will have been blown away in superstorms? If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?”
Biden added that “we have to act as a nation. It shouldn’t be so bad that millions of Americans live in the shadow of an orange sky, and they’re left asking: ‘Is doomsday here?’”
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During the briefing at Sacramento McClellan Airport, California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot “emphasized that climate change was exacerbating the crisis,” Political Wire reports. “It’ll start getting cooler, you just watch,” Trump assured him. “I wish science agreed with you,” Crowfoot replied. “I don’t think science knows, actually,” Trump said.
Wildfire Today has a transcript of Trump’s remarks, along with an assurance that McClellan Airport, a “very busy air tanker base” with the response to multiple mega-fires in full swing, was still operational during his visit.
But the “day of duelling appearances laid out the stark differences between the two candidates, an incumbent president who has long scorned climate change as a hoax and rolled back environmental regulations and a challenger who has called for an aggressive campaign to curb the greenhouse gases blamed for increasingly extreme weather,” the New York Times reports.
During his briefing, Trump blamed California’s epic wildfires on poor forest management, the Times writes. “When trees fall down after a short period of time, they become very dry—really like a matchstick,” Trump said. “And they can explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires.”
Trump’s notion of exploding trees sparked a fairly intense debate on Wildfire Today, with publisher Bill Gabbert finally consulting a fire scientist to confirm his understanding that—shockingly—Trump was lying making it up on the fly wrong.
California Governor Gavin Newsom responded “exceedingly politely”, while pushing Trump to acknowledge the climate crisis and reminding him that 57% of California’s forests are on federal land, compared to only 3% under state control.
“Something’s happening to the plumbing of the world, and we come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real, and that is exacerbating this,” Newsom told Trump. “And so I think there’s an area of at least commonality on vegetation, forest management. But please respect—and I know you do—the difference of opinion out here as it relates to this fundamental issue on the issue of climate change.”
Crowfoot made the point more bluntly, the Times says. “If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians,” he told Trump, prompting the exchange cited by Political Wire.
Other California experts took issue with Trump’s emphasis on forest management. In 2018, after the Camp Fire ran for 17 days, left 85 dead and 249 missing, and literally burned Paradise to the ground, Trump claimed wildfires aren’t a problem in Finland because crews “spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things” to clear forest floors. He was subsequently mocked by confused Finns who pledged to “Make America Rake Again”.
“Raking the leaves and forest floors is really inane. That doesn’t make sense at all,” Environmental Council of Sacramento President Ralph Propper said this week. “We’re seeing what was predicted, which is more extremes of weather.”
On Monday, leaders of more than 170 U.S. environmental groups published an open letter urging their supporters to vote for Biden, rather than the Green Party presidential candidate. Signatories included Earth Day founder Denis Hayes, former U.S. Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope, and Environmental Action coordinator Peter Harnik, The Hill reports.
“Angry right wing voters and liberal absentees put Trump in the White House in 2016,” the letter stated. “In 2020 the same unholy team could keep him there. Progressives who vote for the Green Party candidate, or write in Henry David Thoreau, or refuse to vote at all for lack of an ideal choice will give Donald Trump precisely what he wants, and enough such pious gestures will produce catastrophic results.”