Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Monday that urgent action is needed to prevent climate change, pointing to worsening Western wildfires that have killed dozens of people and scorched 5 million acres across 10 states this year.
Biden, a former vice president, said in a speech outside the Delaware Museum of Natural History in Wilmington that he would rejoin the Paris climate agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement, saying other countries got unfair advantage from it.
Biden also said that he would spur the development of renewable energy through steps such as shifting the federal fleet of vehicles from fossil fuels to electric power. But Biden said the country wouldn't be safe with Trump, who has called climate change a "hoax."
“If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of American ablaze,” Biden said. “We need a president who respects science, who understands that the damage from climate change is already here and unless we take urgent action, it’ll soon be more catastrophic."
Trump traveled Monday to McClellan Park in California and was scheduled to meet with Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has called the situation a climate emergency.
At least 35 people have been killed as fires continue to burn across western states, destroying communities and clouding the air. Five of California’s largest 10 fires in history burned this year. Smoke blanketed San Francisco, Portland and Seattle with some of the poorest air quality in the world. Wildfires have caused $50 billion damage in California alone during the last two years
Democratic governors in the states have clashed with Trump over the role climate change played in the fires. Studies have linked bigger wildfires to plants drying out from warming due to the burning of fossil fuels. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called climate change “a blowtorch over our states in the West.”
But Trump blamed poor forest management, which should have thinned trees and reduced brush to reduce fuel for fires.
"We're also praying for everyone throughout the West affected by the devastating wildfires," Trump said Sunday in Henderson, Nevada. "We want really forest management. We want forest management."
Biden has proposed to spend $2 trillion to spur development of of technology such as generating power without carbon emissions by 2035.
“We have to act as a nation," Biden said. "It shouldn’t be so bad that millions of Americans live in the shadow of an orange sky and are left asking: Is doomsday here?"
The problems extend beyond the fires to a record hurricane season, flooding in Midland, Michigan, and the warmest decade in history that left the Arctic literally melting, Biden said.
"I know this feeling of dreads and anxiety extends well beyond the fires," Biden said. “It’s happening everywhere and it’s happening now and it affects us all."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wildfires: Joe Biden calls Donald Trump 'climate arsonist' over fire damage