Fire storm on the White House. The West Coast drama of deaths, displaced people and the worst air in the world

It took at least 35 deaths and nearly two million acres of scorched earth before the West Coast fires became a prominent theme in the two White House candidates’ election campaigns. On the coast that burns with unprecedented speed and fury, the spotlight of national politics is turning on today, with the visit of President Donald Trump to Sacramento, California, and the press conference by Joe Biden, who from Delaware will discuss the ” threat that extreme weather represents for Americans everywhere ”. Alongside the coronavirus and the racial question, the fires thus become the third ground of polarizing confrontation between Republicans and Democrats, with the president accusing the (Democratic) governors of California, Oregon and Washington of “mismanagement” of forest areas, and dem who blame him for being the first climate change denier.

For the global scientific community, the acres of scorched earth and ash-filled skies across the West Coast are the tragic, but predictable, result of accelerating climate change. Federal government scientists predicted nearly two years ago that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels could triple the frequency of severe fires in Western states. An alarm that the president – despite having mitigated his “climate skepticism” over time – has deliberately chosen to ignore: from an energy point of view, if anything, his mandate will be remembered for the aggressive promotion of the combustion of fossil fuels, and the parallel cancellation or weakening of any relevant federal policy aimed at combating CO2 emissions. After all, Trump and his senior environmental officials have been mocking, denying or minimizing the links between climate change and human behavior for years.

Gone are the days when Trump flaunted his conspiracy theory on climate change on Twitter, “a concept created by the Chinese to undermine the competitiveness of the American manufacturing industry” (tweet of November 6, 2012). And again: “In the 1920s, people worried about global cooling – and it never happened. Now is the time for global warming. But leave me alone! ”. Over the years, the president has issued wavering declarations on climate change, sometimes showing that he understands the severity of the impacts on planet Earth, only to then dismiss it each time as a minor problem. His policies, on the other hand, speak for him, starting with the decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, under which almost all countries in the world had committed themselves to reducing CO2 emissions. .

Internally – recalls the New York Times – Trump ordered Andrew Wheeler, the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to dismantle a number of important climate change regulations put in place by the Obama administration, which were designed to combat pollution from the three largest sources of the nation’s greenhouse gases: coal-fired power plants, automobile tailpipes, and oil and gas drilling sites. Taken together, these rules represented the country’s first significant step towards reducing greenhouse gases, putting the world’s largest economy at the forefront of the global effort to combat climate change. Four years later, nothing remains of that effort. In August, the EPA completed the legal process of canceling the rules on methane, a gas with a high impact on global warming emitted by leaks and leaks in oil and gas wells. In April, it completed the cancellation of the exhaust smoke pollution regulations. And in June 2019, it replaced the Obama-era rule that required coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions with a new rule designed to allow plants to continue releasing much more pollution.

Democrats accuse him of these positions and actions, too late in putting the climate and environmental agenda at the center of the national debate. The turning point came only in the last few hours, with the persistence and worsening of the fires in large areas of California, Oregon and Washington State. Trump’s choice to attend the fire briefing at McClellan Park, Sacramento County, the headquarters of firefighting coordination across California, is a way to show that the White House wants to keep a close eye on the matter, after having it for a long time. labeled as a local problem linked to the mismanagement of wooded areas. In parallel, the timing with which Biden has chosen to speak today of the “growing threat of global warming” and the need to “create unionized and well-paid jobs to build more resilient infrastructure” is indicative of the will not to leave the whole stage. to rival, at a time when tens of thousands of Americans have been forced to flee their homes, and millions of people have breathed and are breathing some of the most polluted air in the world. Because of the fire – the Los Angeles Times writes – the West Coast has 4 of the 10 most polluted cities in the world: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle ranked eighth, sixth and third respectively, while the sad record of the worst air of any major city on the globe goes to Portland, Oregon.

It was the trigger for the firestorm an explosive mix of extreme weather events: a record heat wave, followed by a rare late summer snowfall in Colorado. To those gasping in the hot states, it had seemed excellent news; in fact, it was the antechamber of even greater disaster. From the Rocky Mountains a blast of cold air has found its way to the Pacific coast to the west. This triggered raging winds that swept over the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, acting like a giant bellows across the entire Pacific coast, where fires were already burning. The result: an epic firestorm that raged from the Mexican to Canadian border killing dozens of people, wiping out entire cities and causing the worst air pollution ever seen in the region.

Now all this has become a matter of political confrontation. A few hours after the president’s arrival in California, it is the dem mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti to attack: “It took him three weeks, I’m glad he’s coming but we need more help, material help, not based on affiliation party or how we voted, ”he told CNN. “Instead of going to golf or on vacation, the president and Congress should sit down this week and see to it that there is assistance for these brave men and women who are protecting our lives and property.” he continued. “He’ll come out probably saying ‘I’ll send you more rakes'”, he joked, referring to the tycoon’s belief that fires depend on not cleaning logs and dead branches in the forests. Another battleground for the White House, in the vital correlation between environment and health.

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