US wildfires bring climate crisis to election campaign

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The raging wildfires in the US West Coast have brought climate crisis to the forefront of the election campaign, with Democratic challenger Joe Biden attacking Republican President Donald Trump for his attitude towards the issue.

While touring parts of California, Trump on Monday reiterated his scepticism of climate change, saying, “It’ll start getting cooler, you just watch.”

He said many other countries have “more explosive trees, meaning they catch fire much easier”, but they don’t have problems like this. “I think this is more of a management situation,” he added.

“When you get into climate change, well, is India going to change its ways? And is China going to change its ways? And Russia? Is Russia going to change its ways?” Trump questioned after landing in McLellan Park in California.

Calling Trump a “climate arsonist”, Biden pledged to rejoin the historic Paris Agreement on climate change if elected in the November 3 presidential election. “If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned by wildfires? How many suburban neighbourhoods will have been flooded out?” he asked in a policy speech on climate change.

“While he (Trump) turned against our allies, I’ll bring us back into the Paris Agreement. I will put us back in the business of leading the world on climate change, and I will challenge every other country to up the ante on climate commitments.”

The Paris accord committed the US and 187 other countries to keeping rising global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and attempting to limit them even more, to a 1.5C rise. The decision by the US, one of the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases, to exit the pact had led to condemnation from environmentalists and world leaders.

Biden said, “I’ll also see American workers building and installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations along our newly engaged infrastructure programmes and highways all across the country.”

Wildfires in 10 states including California have burnt down nearly 5 million acres of land and killed dozens of people.

Local officials of Democrat-ruled California accepted the importance of forest management but argued climate change should be accepted as having played a role in the fires.