With Wildfires Tearing Through the West, Biden Slams Trump Denial and Calls Climate Crisis an ‘Imminent, Existential Threat’

  • Published on September 14th, 2020

As wildfires continue to tear through California, Oregon, and Washington state, engulfing entire communities and leaving utter devastation in their wake, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden issued a statement Saturday connecting the blazes to the global climate emergency and slamming President Donald Trump’s ongoing refusal to act.

Photo courtesy of ken fager from Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(Photo courtesy of ken fager from Flickr licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

“The science is clear, and deadly signs like these are unmistakable—climate change poses an imminent, existential threat to our way of life,” said Biden. “President Trump can try to deny that reality, but the facts are undeniable. We absolutely must act now to avoid a future defined by an unending barrage of tragedies like the one American families are enduring across the West today.”

“Donald Trump has no plan to prevent more climate disasters like the wildfires destroying the [West]. Polls show it’s one of his biggest vulnerabilities with swing voters.”
—Sunrise Movement

“Left unchecked, wildfires, and other extreme weather disasters will only continue to grow in frequency and intensity, endangering the lives of tens of millions of Americans, ravaging our lands and waterways, rendering the air unbreathable, and laying waste to our economic security,” Biden continued. “In the years ahead, there will be no challenge more consequential to our future than meeting and defeating the onrushing climate crisis.”

Biden’s statement comes amid progressive criticism of his failure to offer a full-throated endorsement of the Green New Deal, which the former vice president has described as “a crucial framework” without committing fully to the ambitious and popular policy. In July, as Common Dreams reported, Biden unveiled a $2 trillion green energy plan that climate campaigners called a welcome—but insufficient—step in the right direction.

Trump, meanwhile, was completely silent on the historic fires for a nearly three-week period until he mentioned the blazes in a tweet late Friday applauding “the 28,000+ Firefighters and other First Responders who are battling wildfires across California, Oregon, and Washington.”

The president is expected to visit California on Monday to receive a briefing on the fires, which have burned millions of acres on the West Coast and destroyed hundreds of homes.

“Donald Trump has no plan to prevent more climate disasters like the wildfires destroying the [West]. Polls show it’s one of his biggest vulnerabilities with swing voters,” the youth-led Sunrise Movement tweeted in response to Biden’s statement. “Biden and Harris should be repeating this message every hour of every day.

Tens of thousands have evacuated their homes and dozens of people have been killed or reported missing in recent days amid the fires, which have been intensified by a record-breaking heat wave, dry conditions, and strong winds.

Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, told reporters Friday that his state is “preparing for a mass fatality incident based on what we know and the numbers of structures that have been lost.”

After touring two Oregon cities impacted by the blazes, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tweeted Saturday that it is “hard to find the words for the fire destruction” he witnessed.

“Will work my tail off to get all possible federal help to the residents and businesses of these southern Oregon towns and so many others statewide,” Wyden added.

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