Western Leaders Have No Time for Climate Denial

Mission San Francisco Solano shrouded in wildfire smoke on 9/9/20. Sonoma, CA. Image: Miro Korenha

Leaders from Western states have vocally come out to draw the nation’s attention to the dire consequences of climate change, as evidenced by the ongoing, lethal wildfires raging across California, Washington, and Oregon.

Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown said on Sunday that the wildfires are a “wake up call” for officials to take action on climate change. 

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom was adamant in a press conference saying that, “The debate is over, around climate change, this is a climate damn emergency. This is real and it’s happening.”

  • He acknowledged failings in forest management in recent decades, but added: “That’s one point, but it’s not the point.”

Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee meanwhile said that the fires across the West shouldn’t be called wildfires, but “climate fires.”

  • “This is not an act of God,” Inslee said. “This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways.”

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union that “This is climate change and this is an administration that’s put its head in the sand.” Slamming the administration as hosting “the last vestiges of the flat Earth society of this generation.”

Why This Matters: President Trump is set to fly to California today, where he will be briefed on wildfires and also confronted with the grim reality gripping the state. He has continued to deny climate change as president and has even doubled down on his rhetoric in the final stretches of his reelection campaign. As the New York Times reported, at a rally in Pennsylvania last month, he blamed California’s failure to “clean your floors” of leaves, threatening to “make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.” No one is expecting the President to make an about-face on climate change, but its unconscionable that his entire party is also staying silent on the issue.

Scientists know that climate change is making this wildfire season this destructive. And for the first time, perhaps, the country is waking up to reality that our rapidly warming planet needs to be a top-tier concern for all citizens–as evidenced by pop culture icons making these connections.

Our nation is past there point where we can afford to “debate” climate change, we’re even past the point of arguing about whose responsibility it is to do something about it. Americans are dying and they’re scared, nothing short of a commitment to undertake comprehensive climate action on the part of lawmakers will suffice. The Republican Party has missed its chance to be a thoughtleader in the climate solutions space, and even when they have brought solutions, they have been woefully inadequate.

Today Vice President Biden will deliver remarks in Wilmington, Delaware on the ongoing wildfires and urgent need to address the climate crisis, showing the nation that he’s ready and willing to take action. It will be a telling moment for this election to see how President Trump responds.

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