SACRAMENTO, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — President Trump was briefed in California on the raging west coast fires as he was urged to accept the role climate change may play in the devastation that has claimed dozens of lives and at least two million of acres of land.
The president, who once called climate change a hoax, arrived in the smoke and haze of California Monday and insisted that the bad forest management had turned the woods into matchsticks.
“This is one of the biggest burns we’ve ever seen and we have to do a lot about forest management,” Trump said.
Forest management is the failure to clear dead trees and debris in a timely fashion.
At the forum on the federal, state and local response to the fires, officials acknowledged the president was correct that the California Forestlands do need better management. 57 percent of the forestlands are owned by the federal government.
Officials did say that something bigger than combustible dry brush is making matters worse and that the unremitting heat and five year drought add up to an unavoidable conclusion.
“If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together in protecting Californians,” said Wade Crowfoot, California’s Secretary of Natural Resources.
“It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch,” Trump said in response.
“I wish the science agreed with you,” Crowfoot quipped.
California Governor Gavin Newsom agreed something was amiss. The visit comes days after Newsom criticized the president’s leadership on environmental issues.
“Something happened to the plumbing of the world and we come from a perspective – humbly – where we submit that the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real and that it’s exacerbating this,” said Newsom.
Newsom said days are hotter and drier than before. The president who withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord because he said they would cost American jobs listened for the most part and appeared somewhat sympathetic to the governor’s plea.
“Please respect – and I know you do – the differences of opinion out here as it relates to this fundamental issue on the issue of climate change,” Newsom said.
Across the country in Delaware, former Vice President Joe Biden sought to underline what Democrats believe is a winning issue for them.
“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.
“We need a president who respects science, who understands that the damage from climate change is already here,” Biden continued. “Unless we take urgent action, it will soon be more catastrophic.”
A spate of deadly and destructive wildfires has hit California, Oregon and Washington this summer, destroying thousands of homes and a handful of small towns, burning more than 4 million acres and killing more than 30 people.