Climate crisis: Biden calls for urgency in California

climate crisis
Flames consume multiple homes as the Caldor fire pushes into the Echo Summit area, California, last month. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

US president Joe Biden traveled to California on Monday to survey wildfire damage. The state battles a devastating fire season that is on track to outpace that of 2020, the state’s worst fire season on record.

  • The president is using the trip to highlight the connection between the climate crisis and the west’s increasingly extreme wildfires as he seeks to rally support for a $3.5tn spending plan Congress is debating.
  • Biden pointed to wildfires burning through the west to argue for his plan, calling year-round fires and other extreme weather a climate crisis reality the nation can no longer ignore.
  • Biden’s visit to California is part of a two-day tour of the west including stops at the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho and Denver, Colorado. While in California, the president also campaigned with the state’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall election on Tuesday.
  • Speaking alongside Newsom ahead of a tour of wildfire-damaged areas in northern California, Biden said the huge blazes that had rocked the state this summer “are being supercharged by climate change”.
  • “It isn’t about red or blue states. It’s about fires,” the president said. “Scientists have been warning us for years that extreme weather is going to get more extreme. We’re living it in real time.”
  • Newsom, who spoke before Biden, warned that California was “dealing with extremes the likes of which we’ve never dealt with in our state’s history”.
  • Just before his visit on Monday, Biden issued a disaster declaration for California in response to the Caldor fire, which has destroyed 782 homes, scorched 342 sq miles and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands in the Lake Tahoe Basin. In August, Biden approved another disaster declaration to provide aid after the River fire and the Dixie fire, the largest single fire in California history.

Wildfires in California this year have already leveled entire towns, killed one person and burned 2m acres. California and several other western states experienced their hottest summers on record this year as the climate crisis fueled deadly heatwaves.