US President Donald Trump on Monday suggested global warming would reverse itself and dismissed climate change as a cause of ferocious fires engulfing swaths of the US west, during a briefing in California on the deadly blazes.
Trump, who flew into Sacramento, California, on the third day of a re-election campaign swing, pushed back against state officials arguing that a heating climate underlies the ever-stronger blazes, which have killed at least 35 people since the start of summer and forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes.
“It will start getting cooler. You just watch,” Trump said.
“I wish science agreed with you,” California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot responded, to which Trump replied: “I don’t think science knows, actually.”
Trump on his arrival also repeated his argument that the wildfires are due to poor maintenance of forest areas, making them more combustible.
“There has to be strong forest management,” he said.
“With regard to the forests, when trees fall down after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry. They become really like a match stick,” he added. “They just explode.”
Minutes earlier, his Democratic challenger, former US vice president Joe Biden had assailed Trump from a Delaware campaign appearance as a “climate arsonist” whose re-election would be catastrophic for the environment.
“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 said, savaging Trump for failing to “take responsibility” for the ongoing wildfire crisis.
“We need a president who respects science, who understands that the damage from climate change is already here,” Biden added.
Reputable scientists around the world are almost unanimous in their belief that the world is getting warmer because of human activity.
Climate change amplifies droughts, which dry out regions, creating ideal conditions for wildfires to spread out-of-control and inflict unprecedented damage.
The blazes across California, Oregon and Washington have burned more than 2 million hectares.
Whole towns have been ruined by the blazes, which have pumped out tonnes of noxious fumes that have hung in the air for days, blocking out the sun and making breathing difficult.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has argued that the fires are driven mostly by global warming, acknowledged as he met with Trump that better forest management was needed, but he said the overwhelming cause of the problem is far bigger.
“The hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting drier,” he said. “We submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident: that climate change is real and that is exacerbating this.”
Trump has made little comment about the massive wildfires that have ripped through cities and towns in recent weeks, drawing loud criticism for not acknowledging the crisis.
Much of the west coast remained coated in dense smog on Monday, with Portland, Oregon, the world’s most air-polluted city, according to IQAir.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who has described the wildfires as “apocalyptic” and driven by climate change, said it was crucial voters elect a “climate president” come Nov. 3.
“This moment requires action, not denial,” he wrote on Twitter. “We must come together around science to build a better future for all Americans.”
Most of the 35 deaths so far confirmed have occurred in California and Oregon, where the wildfires are the worst in decades and have been fueled partly by record heat.
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