President Donald Trump on Monday suggested global warming will reverse itself and dismissed climate change as a cause of ferocious fires engulfing swaths of the US West, during a briefing in California on the deadly blazes.
Trump, who flew into Sacramento on the third day of a re-election campaign swing, pushed back against state officials arguing that a heating climate underlies the ever-stronger blazes, which have killed at least 35 people since the start of summer.
“It will start getting cooler. You just watch,” Trump said.
“I wish science agreed with you,” responded Wade Crowfoot, the head of the California Natural Resources Agency.
Trump on his arrival also repeated his argument that the wildfires are due instead to insufficient maintenance of forest areas to make them less combustible.
“There has to be strong forest management,” he said. “With regard to the forests, when trees fall down after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry. They become really like a match stick,” he added. “They just explode.”
Minutes earlier, Democratic challenger Joe Biden assailed Trump as a “climate arsonist” whose re-election would be catastrophic for the environment.
“If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?” Biden said, savaging Trump for failing to “take responsibility” for the ongoing wildfire crisis.
“We need a president who respects science, who understands that the damage from climate change is already here,” Biden added.
Climate change amplifies droughts, which dry out regions, creating ideal conditions for wildfires to spread out-of-control and inflict unprecedented damage.
The blazes across California, Oregon and Washington state have burned nearly five million acres (two million hectares), torching an area roughly the size of the state of New Jersey, with fears the death toll may rise.