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Trump and Biden clash over US wildfires as campaign turns to climate change

Trump, Biden Clash Over U.S. Wildfires As Campaign Turns to Climate Change

WASHINGTON – US democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden called President Donald Trump a “climate arsonist” on September 14 for refusing to acknowledge the role of global warming in the deadly wildfires sweeping the western United States, while Trump blamed forestry lax and said, “I don’t think science knows that.”
Dozens of fires have raged on an unprecedented scale over some 4.5 million acres (1.8 million hectares) in Oregon, California and Washington state since August, devastating several small towns, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 36 people.
The fires have also filled the region’s air with harmful levels of smoke and soot, bathing the sky in eerie tones of orange and sepia while adding to a public health crisis already posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ten deaths have been confirmed over the past week in Oregon, the latest flashpoint of a broader outbreak of summer fires accompanied by catastrophic lightning storms, record-breaking heatwaves and episodes of extreme winds.
These inflammatory conditions gave way over the weekend to more relaxed, wetter weather and calmer winds, allowing tired firefighters to gain traction in their efforts to bypass the fires that had burned down extensively last week.
Firefighters warned the battle was barely over. Thunderstorms forecast for later in the week could bring much-needed rains, but also more lightning.
Officials have also braced for an increase in the death toll.
As disaster management teams scoured the ruins of homes engulfed in flames amid chaotic evacuations last week, Oregon emergency management authorities said they had yet to report on the 22 people missing in the fires.
At least 25 people have died in California wildfires since mid-August, and one death has been confirmed in Washington state.
More than 6,200 homes and other structures have been lost, according to figures from the tri-state.
Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, criticized by Republicans for not visiting disaster areas, spoke from his home state of Delaware on the threat of extreme weather events increasingly frequent than scientists reported as evidence that climate change is making fires worse.
Trump, who follows Biden in national polls ahead of the November 3 election, has met with firefighters and officials in California after Democrats criticized the Republican president for remaining silent on the wildfires.
“I think it’s more of a management situation,” Trump replied when asked by a reporter if climate change was a factor behind the fires.
Not to mention the massive forest fires that have raged elsewhere in the world in recent years – from southern Europe to Australia and Siberia – Trump has claimed other countries “don’t have this problem.”
“They have more explosive trees, which means they catch fire a lot more easily,” he said. “But they don’t have problems like that.”
The president and his administration have long sought to blame large forest fires on state officials, arguing that fuel-clogged forests and brushwood need to be cleared, more firebreaks cut, and that flammable debris should be removed from forest soils.
Trump said improving forest management was something that could be tackled quickly, while climate change would take longer and require international cooperation that he said was lacking.
“When you talk about climate change, is India going to change its ways? And will China change its ways? And Russia? Is Russia going to change its ways?” he said after landing in McLellan Park, California.
Trump called climate change a “hoax” and, in 2017, pulled the United States out of the Paris accords by defining an international approach to global warming.
Biden, the former vice president, has included climate change on his list of significant crises facing the United States.
Calling Trump a “climate arsonist,” Biden said, “If we have four more years of climate denial from Trump, how many suburbs will be burned by wildfires? How many suburban neighbourhoods will have been flooded?”
California Governor Gavin Newsom has recognized that more needs to be done to manage forests better and reduce fire risk, citing more than a century of aggressive fire suppression that has allowed fuels to grow.
But he countered that global warming was nonetheless a determining factor in the behaviour of the newly extreme wildfires, and he reminded Trump that 57% of forest land in California is under federal ownership.
“We come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science and the observed evidence is obvious: that climate change is real, and it makes it worse,” the Democratic governor said in a meeting with the president.
Trump, who authorized federal disaster aid for both California and Oregon, questioned that science.
“It’ll start to get cooler, just watch,” he said.
“I don’t think science knows that.”
Tens of thousands of displaced residents across the Pacific Northwest have continued to adjust to life as evacuees. Around the devastated towns of Phoenix and Talent in southwestern Oregon, some people have set up food outlets in parking lots. Others defied evacuation orders to protect their own homes from looters.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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