(CN) — President Donald Trump’s “path of indifference” on climate change has left millions of Americans unprotected from the ravages of wildfires, floods and hurricanes — an abdication of the most basic duty of the president, former Vice President Joe Biden said Monday.
“These interlocking crises of our time require action, not denial,” the Democratic nominee for president said in a livestreamed address from Delaware.
“It requires leadership, not scapegoating. It requires the president to meet the threshold of the duty of the office — to care, to care for everyone. To defend us from every attack seen and unseen, always and without exception.”
Biden scheduled the 20-minute address on climate change as more than 100 of wildfires sweep across the western U.S., the most deadly in California, Oregon, and Washington state killing dozens of people and burning entire communities. Thousands of buildings have been damaged or destroyed.
The fires have caused more than $50 billion in damage in California alone, Biden said. The smoke from the fires has tinted the skies orange across half a dozen states from southern Arizona to Montana.
“It shouldn’t be so bad that millions of Americans live in the shadow of an orange sky and they’re left asking, ‘Is Doomsday here?’” Biden said.
He attributed the collective devastation from Midwest floods, coastal hurricanes, and Western wildfires to inaction, pointing a finger at Trump for calling climate change a hoax.
“It’s happening everywhere, and it’s happening now, and it affects us all,” Biden said, adding that the effects often hit communities of color harder.
Trump has injected politics into natural disasters, threatening to withhold aid because he believes California political leaders’ poor management led to the fires. Meanwhile, the president raises the alarm that integration threatens our suburbs, Biden said.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said.
“You know what is actually threatening our suburbs? Wildfires that burn in the suburbs in the west. Floods are wiping out suburban neighborhoods in the Midwest. Hurricanes are imperiling suburban life along our coasts.”
If elected, Biden would push for a nationwide renewable energy grid retooling, spurring job growth and economic recovery in a push toward zero-carbon power. He would shift the federal government’s massive fleet to electric vehicles, and a push for 500,000 charging stations, he said.
The government shift to electric vehicles would lead to a million auto industry jobs, and the switch to a national renewable power grid would lead to jobs for engineers, steelworkers, and scientists.
“Transforming the American electricity sector to produce power without carbon pollution will be the greatest spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st century,” Biden said.
He called the plans “concrete, actionable policies” that would lead the nation to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The cost of these programs could be recovered in reduced damage, he said.
“We can invest in our infrastructure to make it stronger and more resilient, while at the same time tackling the root causes of climate change,” Biden said.
“Or we can continue down the path of Donald Trump’s indifference, costing tens of billions of dollars to rebuild, and where the human costs — the lives and livelihoods and homes and communities destroyed — are immeasurable.”