Biden Warns That Wildfires Are ‘Supercharged’ by Climate Change
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden warned in California that wildfires are being “supercharged” by climate change and called on Congress to approve an infrastructure package that includes funding for resilience programs.
“These fires are blinking code red for our nation,” Biden said Monday at Sacramento County’s Mather Airport.
The president has repeatedly pointed to natural disasters as justification for his infrastructure and social spending programs, arguing that the packages under consideration by Congress would combat climate change and help those affected by extreme weather.
“We can’t ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change,” Biden said.
Biden’s remarks Monday evening came after an aerial tour of communities in El Dorado County, outside Sacramento, that have been hit hard by the Caldor fire.
On Monday night, the president addressed a campaign rally in Long Beach with Governor Gavin Newsom, who’s facing a recall election on Tuesday. Biden called Newsom, who had joined him to discuss the wildfires, crucial to the struggle against climate change.
Earlier Monday, the president surveyed fire damage in Idaho. During a meeting with federal and state fire officials in Boise’s National Interagency Fire Center, he warned: “It’s going to get worse.”
Earlier this month, Biden visited communities in Louisiana, New York, and New Jersey that saw flooding and wind damage from Hurricane Ida and argued the destruction proved the necessity for trillions in spending on roads, bridges and the power grid.
The White House has sought to frame efforts to battle the growing threat of wildfires as a bipartisan issue. In addition to the president’s trip to Idaho -- where he lost to former President Donald Trump by more than 30 points -- Biden hosted the Republican governors of Utah and Wyoming during a virtual discussion of efforts to battle wildfires in late June.
At that meeting, Biden announced he would increase pay for federal firefighters and use government satellites to detect blazes earlier. And on Monday, the president said he had used the Defense Production Act in early August to help the U.S. Forest Service purchase more fire hoses amid supply chain disruptions.
Since the beginning of 2021, more than 7,300 wildfires have burned more than 2.2 million acres of land in California alone, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The agency said more than 13,000 firefighters are battling 16 major fires presently -- including a blaze in Mendocino County that has prompted a fresh round of evacuation orders.
Biden’s efforts on wildfires also appeared designed to draw implicit contrast with Trump, who used a similar meeting in Sacramento last year to blame California for the wildfires, arguing the state didn’t do enough to clear underbrush from forest floors. Trump also threatened to withhold federal funds.
On Sunday, Biden approved a disaster declaration that would provide federal assistance to areas in California impacted by recent fires.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.