Energy & Environment

Biden attacks Trump’s climate record amid Western wildfires, lays out his plan

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about climate change and the wildfires on the West Coast at the Delaware Museum of Natural History on September 14, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden hit President Trump for his climate denialism Monday, attacking him for failing to respond to natural disasters like the wildfires raging across the West while outlining a vision he promises will both boost the economy and clean the environment.

Responding to fires that have raged for weeks across California, Oregon, and Washington, Biden took a broader view, listing off disasters from flooding in the Midwest, to hurricanes battling the Southeast and accusing Trump of ignoring the changing climate as the underlying thread exacerbating each.

“What we’re seeing in America, in our communities, is connected to all of this, with every bout with nature’s fury caused by our own inaction on climate change,” Biden said from Delaware.

“If we give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze? If we leave a climate denier with four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater. We need a president that respects science, understands that the damage from climate change is already here. Unless we take urgent action, it will soon be more catastrophic.”

Though Biden has the most aggressive climate plan of any Democratic presidential nominee to date, Monday’s speech was the most forceful example yet of the candidate making the case for his plan, the economic upside and the consequences of inaction.

Trump has repeatedly denied or diminished climate science and climate change, something that has increasingly become a central line of attack for Democrats.

Trump didn’t publicly acknowledge the fires that have been raging for weeks in the West until a Friday night tweet, thanking firefighters and first responder for their work and adding that he is “with them all the way.” 

His Monday visit to the state was sandwiched between campaign stops in Nevada and Arizona on swing out West and included a closed-door briefing on the wildfires in McClellan Park, Calif., a former air base that is now a hub for officials combatting the blazes.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has blamed climate change for the hot and dry air, drought, and lightning storms that set the state ablaze.

“This is a climate damn emergency,” Newsom said Friday while surveying damage in Northern California.

“The debate is over on climate change,” Newsom added. “Just come to the state of California.”

At a roundtable that took place Monday shortly after Biden wrapped his speech, Trump argued with local leaders about climate change’s role in the fires.

“It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch,” Trump said.

He pushed back when a panelist said the science disagreed, adding, “I don’t think science knows actually.

Experts say both climate change and mismanagement of public lands are a contributing factor to the extreme fires. The federal government oversees more than 45 percent of the acreage in California.

Biden also attacked Trump for past comments he’s made about California’s management techniques, referring to 2018 comments where the president said the state needed to be “raking and cleaning” the forest floor.   

“This is another crisis, another crisis, he won’t take responsibility for. The West is literally on fire. And he blames the people whose homes and communities are burning. He says, ‘You got to clean your floors; you got to clean your forest.’ This is the same president who threw paper towels on the people of Puerto Rico.”

Trump has already approved disaster declarations for the wildfires, but at an August rally he floated the idea of withholding emergency funding to California.

“Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us,” Trump said at a Pennsylvania rally last month, according to Politico, again referencing cleaning the forest floor of leaves and brush.

Biden pointed to a history of Trump comments threatening to withhold emergency funding to various states, saying the president needs to “care for everyone.”

“Here’s the deal. Hurricanes don’t swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don’t skip towns that voted a certain way. The impacts of climate change don’t pick and choose. That’s because it’s not a partisan phenomenon,” Biden said, adding later that Trump “has already said he wanted to withhold aid to California, punish the people of California, because they didn’t vote for him.”

The former vice president sees fighting climate change as part of his economic vision, one that will create new jobs as the U.S. develops technology to battle rising temperatures.

Biden’s climate plan would fight global warming with a transition to cleaner technologies, including electric vehicles and renewable energy, as well as a requirement that all power be carbon free by 2035. 

“When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, he thinks hoax. When I think about climate change I think jobs,” Biden said.

Biden estimates a program to manufacture electric vehicles and a rebate program to help people afford them could spur 1 million new jobs for the auto industry.

He forecast a growing role for the academic community to help develop new technologies to reduce energy use and a growth in construction for homes, building and other infrastructure amid a shift to energy efficiency.

“When Donald Trump thinks about renewable energy, he sees windmills somehow as causing cancer,” Biden said.

“[When] Donald Trump  thinks about LED light bulbs, he says he doesn’t like them because the lights are no good–they always make him look orange. I see small businesses and master electricians designing and installing award-winning energy conservation measures, building buildings across the country. It’s going to reduce electrical consumption and save businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”

Tags California wildfires Climate change Donald Trump Gavin Newsom Joe Biden Natural disasters

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