After touring California wildfire damage, Biden rebuts complaints about cost of combating climate change

·Senior Climate Editor
·2 min read

During a visit to Mather, Calif., on Monday, President Biden laid out his administration’s agenda for mitigating the effects of climate change, which studies show is responsible for the increased severity of wildfires.

"We can't ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change," the president said, while laying out the case for his Build Back Better plan currently being considered in Congress.

In response to the concerns voiced by centrist members of his party, like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, that his Build Back Better infrastructure plan is too expensive, Biden countered that a tepid response to climate change would prove even costlier.

“We have to think big,” the president said. “Thinking small is a prescription for disaster."

The $3.5 trillion bill would make possible a wide range of actions to reduce climate pollution, aid communities on the frontline of increasingly frequent natural disasters and invest in a number of the administration’s domestic priorities, such as lowering costs of childcare, health care and housing.

Manchin has said he will not support the bill’s price tag. In response, Biden noted that the spending is spread out over 10 years and that the economic damage from allowing problems such as worsening wildfires to fester could prove more costly. “Each dollar we invest in [wildfire] resilience saves up to $6 down the road when the next fire doesn’t spread as widely, and those investments also save lives,” Biden said. “We have to think big.

Joe Biden
President Biden in Mather, Calif. on Monday. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Biden’s remarks followed an introduction by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who is facing a recall election on Tuesday. The two men toured some of the damage caused by the Caldor Fire, which has burned more than 200,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures. A few hours after the event in Mather, Biden was scheduled to speak at a campaign rally on Newsom’s behalf.

Earlier in the day, Biden met with state and federal officials contending with this year’s record-setting wildfires in California and Idaho. Biden noted that more 5.4 million acres have burned in the United States this year — a larger area than the entire state of New Jersey — including 2.2 million acres in California.

In his remarks, Biden noted the grim reality faced by many in the state — that thanks to climate change residents have now become accustomed to the ravages of wildfire season each and every year.

“Everyone in Northern California knows the time of the year when you can’t go outside, when the air will be filled with smoke and the sky will turn [an] apocalyptic shade of orange,” Biden said.

Yet Biden ended on an optimistic note, saying, “America was going to come together and we are going to beat this climate change.”

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