Joe Biden warns of ‘code red’ moment on climate change

US President Joe Biden (left) tours a neighbourhood affected by Hurricane Ida in Manville, New Jersey on Wednesday. (AFP)
US President Joe Biden (left) tours a neighbourhood affected by Hurricane Ida in Manville, New Jersey on Wednesday. (AFP)

The US President Joe Biden toured New Jersey and New York areas hit recently by Hurricane Ida. Last week, he surveyed affected areas of Louisiana, which bore the brunt of the hurricane.

By Yashwant Raj I Edited by Amit Chanda

UPDATED ON SEP 08, 2021 10:17 AM IST

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned of a “code red” moment on climate change referring to parts of the country affected by extreme weather in recent days; from New York, New Jersey and Louisiana that were devastated by Hurricane Ida to California which is dealing with raging wildfires.

Joe Biden toured New Jersey and New York areas hit recently by Hurricane Ida. Last week, he surveyed affected areas of Louisiana, which bore the brunt of the hurricane and he is scheduled to visit California next week.

“We got to listen to the scientists and the economists and the national security experts. They all tell us this is code red; the nation and the world are in peril,” Joe Biden said in Queens, New York, where 8 people had died because of flooding in their basement residences.

“They’ve been warning us the extreme weather would get more extreme over the decade, and we’re living it in real time now,” Joe Biden added.

As Joe Biden went to point out American communities with 100 million people have been struck by extreme weather conditions – that is one in every three Americans.

“I mean, every part of the country – every part of the country is getting hit by extreme weather,” he said at a briefing in New Jersey. “And we’re now living in real time what the country is going to look like. And if we don’t do something – we can’t turn it back very much, but we can prevent it from getting worse.”

Hurricane Ida, which struck the US a week ago, has killed at least 60 people in New York, New Jersey and Louisiana and left more than half a million people without electricity in Louisiana. And, over 2 million acres have burnt in California wildfires so far, with more fires in the forecast.

“Folks, the evidence is clear: Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy, and the threat is here. It’s not going to get any better,” Joe Biden said. “The question – can it get worse? We can stop it from getting worse.”

The Biden administration has proposed several measures to combat warming in the $2.5 trillion rebuilding plan working it ways through US congress, as part of his “Build Back Better” agenda. His Build Back Better plan, with key investments into fighting climate change and cutting emissions will make “things more resilient”, he said.

The US president spoke also of the upcoming UN conference on climate change being held in Glasgow, Scotland in October-November, which he is scheduled to attend as is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The goal is to accelerate action towards achieving targets determined in the Paris Agreement.

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Storm Ida: Joe Biden says climate change has reached ‘code red’ and is now ‘everybody’s crisis’

President Joe Biden says climate change has reached “code red” and is now “everybody’s crisis”.

Mr Biden spoke as he toured New York neighbourhoods severely impacted by flooding when Ida brought record amounts of rain to the northeastern states, killing at least 64 people.

He met people whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged in New Jersey and Queens in New York City, stopping to hug one woman outside a wrecked home.

The president said the damage everyone is seeing, from wildfires in the West, to hurricanes in the South and Northeast, shows the time for action is now.

President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media as he tours a neighborhood in Manville, New Jersey impacted by Hurricane Ida. Pic: AP

Image: Mr Biden witnessed the damage left behind in Manville, New Jersey. Pic: AP

“The threat is here. It is not getting any better,” Mr Biden said in New York. “The question is can it get worse. We can stop it from getting worse.”

Some 27 people were killed in flooding in New Jersey, while in New York City, 13 people were killed due to Ida, including 11 in Queens.

Mr Biden repeated his warning when he visited Manville, New Jersey, also ravaged by Ida.

Joe Biden in New Jersey. Pic: AP

Image: Mr Biden said we can prevent climate change from ‘getting worse’ if we act now. Pic: AP

He walked along a street in the Lost Valley neighbourhood of Manville, where the clean-up continues.

He spoke to adults and children, including Meagan Dommar, a new mother whose home was destroyed by fire as the flood occurred. She told him that she and her husband, Caesar, had left with the baby before the flooding, then returned to find destruction.

“Thank God you’re safe,” Mr Biden replied.

She said afterward she hoped the visit would speed help “along a little bit” and said she was grateful for the visit.

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NYPD try to rescue family from Ida floods

Although, not everyone was so welcoming. He was taunted by supporters of former President Donald Trump, who yelled that Mr Biden was a “tyrant”.

Later during a briefing with officials Mr Biden said: “Every part of the country, every part of the country is getting hit by extreme weather.”

He added that the threat from extreme weather events must be dealt with in ways that will lessen the devastating effects of climate change.

Residents in New Jersey. Pic: AP

Image: Not everyone was happy at the President’s visit. Pic: AP

“We can’t turn it back very much, but we can prevent it from getting worse,” he said. “We don’t have any more time.”

Mr Biden is hoping his plan to spend $1 trillion fortifying infrastructures, including electrical grids, water and sewer systems, against extreme weather will pass a House vote.

On Tuesday, the White House asked Congress for an additional $24 billion in disaster aid to cover the costs of Ida and other destructive weather events.

Watch the Daily Climate Show at 6.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

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Biden turns storm devastation into disaster-zone sales pitch for legacy bills

(CNN)President Joe Biden has a new and aggressive sales pitch for the ambitious domestic agenda that would define his place in history.

He is seizing on destruction wreaked by Hurricane Ida and its remnants to push for infrastructure and spending bills packed with funds to fight the climate crisis that could cement his legacy — and which sit on a knife-edge on Capitol Hill.

Trips by presidents to disaster zones are traditionally marked by familiar rituals, in which they offer a consoling shoulder to victims and photo-ops show them in charge while vowing support and government relief cash for local politicians. Biden did all that in New York and New Jersey Tuesday — his administration has asked Congress for $24 billion for Ida relief and for victims of other recent weather disasters and storms. And he strolled streets filled with piles of debris of the storm, which slammed into the Gulf Coast last week and traced a destructive track across the country before swamping the Northeast.

    “Thank God you’re safe,” Biden told one family, whose home was destroyed by a fire caused by the floods in New Jersey.

      But the President also adopted a more overtly political tone than might normally be expected for such visits, specifically linking Ida’s vicious power to the climate crisis, and arguing that wrecked homes made the case for his signature bills.

      His strategy could introduce new urgency to measures that still face a treacherous path on Capitol Hill. But the specific concentration on climate measures could also deepen concerns of key moderate senators, including West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, whose votes are vital to passing Biden’s ambitious agenda. And they will surely lead conservative media outlets to accuse the President of politicizing the victims of the storm.

      The pitch came as Biden seeks to reestablish his authority following a rough August marked by criticism of his chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the struggle to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.

      “We’ve got to listen to the scientists, and the economists, and the national security experts. They all tell us this is code red,” Biden said in Queens, New York, which was hit by serious flash floods. At least 52 people were killed in the Northeast by Ida, which dumped record rainfall on parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey after first roaring ashore in Louisiana.

      “The nation and the world are in peril. That’s not hyperbole, that is a fact,” Biden said. “They have been warning us the extreme weather would get more extreme over the decade, and we’re living it in real time now.”

      Two bills vital to Biden’s legacy

      The President specifically touted his bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal with Republicans that he said would repair bridges threatened by higher water levels. He also pushed his $3.5 trillion spending blueprint, which includes billions of dollars in funding for cutting carbon emissions, clean energy, upgrading power grids and green transport including a network of electric vehicle recharging stations. Modifying his “build back better” mantra from the campaign in 2020, the President said the country now needed to build back in a new way to future proof against climate change.

      Traditionally, leaders of political parties in Western nations who are committed to battling climate change have struggled to communicate the urgency of the task of spending billions of dollars to tackle what has been at times a vague future threat. That has offered openings for conservative skeptics of climate change to argue against big spending remedies to cut carbon emissions that cause global warming.

      But Biden has consistently billed his climate plans not as an environmental crusade but as a massive jobs program, vowing the creation of a new generation economy that will outpace current employment and job losses in carbon heavy industries. And now, he has toughened his rhetoric by highlighting a spate of storms, floods, wildfires and droughts to argue that the effects of climate change are unfolding in real time all over the US and must be met with immediate action.

      “We don’t have any more time,” Biden said.

      “We can’t turn it back very much, but we can prevent it from getting worse,” he said on Tuesday, describing the warming planet as “everybody’s crisis.”

      Warning of ‘Category 6’ hurricanes

      Along with sweeping changes to make the economy more equitable to working Americans and to expand the social safety net, climate change is a huge priority for the Biden administration.

      Billions of dollars in climate projects are included in the $3.5 trillion spending plan that might otherwise have been contained in separate climate bills. This strategy is designed to pass the programs with a parliamentary device known as reconciliation that can be used for budgetary measures and can avoid filibuster blocking tactics from Senate Republicans.

      Climate is also a cornerstone of Biden’s ambition to restore US leadership on the global stage after ex-President Donald Trump alienated US allies — as well as help rehabilitate his own image after the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal.

      The President rejoined the Paris climate accord from which his predecessor withdrew and on Tuesday, he announced he would take an important symbolic step by traveling to the UN Climate Conference in Scotland in November. To give his global leadership bid credibility, and to pressure other world powers to take economically painful steps to cool a warming planet, Biden will hope to brandish a flurry of new climate measures newly passed by Congress. The bills are also crucial to the US pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% from 2005 levels.

      “We’ve got to move, and we’ve got to move the rest of the world. It’s not just the United States of America,” Biden said.

      The President may be pursuing a hard-eyed political strategy by leveraging weather catastrophes. But he’s on solid scientific ground. Experts have long been warning that super-intense hurricanes and other weather-related disasters offer a devastating preview of the future.

      “There’s no coincidence here that the most intense and destructive hurricanes on record in the northern hemisphere, in the southern hemisphere, in the Atlantic and Pacific … have all happened within the last decade because of record warm ocean temperatures, record amounts of heat that fuel these increasingly strong and destructive storms,” Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, told CNN’s Ana Cabrera on Tuesday. “We’re starting to now talk about storms that are qualitatively different from anything we’ve seen before, where we will have to introduce a Category 6 to describe the destructive potential of the storms.”

      Biden is confident of Manchin’s backing

      Biden made his aggressive call for climate action flanked by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader of the US Senate who will play a critical role in trying to get the spending blueprint over the finish line.

      But his enthusiastic highlighting of the climate aspects of the bills does not come without political risks. Framing the spending proposal as part of a sweeping climate package will please progressives who are demanding passage of the bill as a price for supporting the infrastructure package in the House. But it could lead the President into a collision with Manchin, who last week threatened to disrupt Biden’s entire domestic agenda by calling for a slowdown on the spending package and questioning its size.

      Manchin voted to advance a first framework for the spending blueprint, which also includes billions of dollars in funding for health care, child care and other social programs last month in the Senate. He did not mention global warming in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week in which he expressed his reservations, instead concentrating on rising inflation.

      But the moderate Democrat has long been an outspoken defender of the coal industry in his home state and warned earlier this year that he was concerned by provisions that he saw as designed to eliminate the fossil fuel industry.

      Given the 50-50 tie in the Senate, there is no way that the spending bill can pass without Manchin’s vote. The West Virginia senator is not the only moderate Democrat that could be discomforted by a climate strategy that could play into Republican plans to decry the bill as a huge spending spree.

      Biden, however, expressed confidence in Manchin’s backing on Tuesday evening, saying, “Joe, at the end, has always been there.”

      But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a sharp rejoinder for the West Virginia senator, who won reelection in 2018 in a state twice won handsomely by ex-President Donald Trump — and without whom Democrats would be in the minority in the other chamber.

      “Obviously, I don’t agree,” Pelosi told CNN when she was asked about Manchin’s call for Congress to hit the brakes on the budget bill.

      “The number is the number, $3.5 (trillion), we can’t go above that,” Pelosi said. Asked whether she would go below the figure that has given Manchin pause, the speaker responded: “Why?”

      This month is shaping up as a fateful one for Biden’s agenda. If the President can get both the infrastructure bill and the spending blueprint into law, he will have a claim to have one of the most historically significant Democratic presidencies of modern times. If he fails, there is little chance he will enter the 2022 midterm election year with a substantial legislative record on which to run. And the possibility of a Republican-led House from 2023 could mean the current Democratic window on power is narrow.

        That tough reality, not to mention the state of the planet, helps explains the note of almost apocalyptic urgency evident in Biden’s voice Tuesday.

        “I think we’re at one of those inflection points where we either act or we’re going to be in real, real trouble. Our kids are going to be in real trouble,” he said.

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        President Joe Biden surveys deadly Ida disaster zones in Manville, Queens

        NEW YORK (WABC) — President Joe Biden traveled to New Jersey and New York City Tuesday to survey damage in parts of the northeast that suffered catastrophic flash flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

        Biden declared climate change “everybody’s crisis” after touring the neighborhoods severely damaged by Ida. He said it’s time for America to get serious about the danger or face even worse lose of life and property.

        He planned to use the muddy backdrop to call for federal spending to fortify infrastructure so it can better withstand such powerful storms, with his plan calling for $1 trillion in infrastructure spending nationwide currently pending in Congress.

        “I’m hoping to be able to see the things we are going to be able to fix permanently with the bill that we have in for infrastructure,” Biden said as he left the White House, when asked what he hoped to see on the tour.

        Eyewitness News was at JFK International Airport as Air Force One touched down around 11 a.m. The president was greeted by Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy before walking the tarmac to Marine One, which took him to his first meeting.

        WATCH: President Biden arrives in the Tri-State to survey damage from Ida

        Biden first visited Manville, where fires broke out in swamped homes and businesses Friday, many of which were inaccessible to firefighters because of Ida’s floodwaters, and his visit comes as the need grows for more help.

        The president met with state and local leaders in Somerset County to discuss their needs, and Murphy made good on his promise to ask Biden to include more counties for federal aid. The current disaster declaration includes Bergen, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Passaic, and Somerset counties.

        “Essex, Union, Hudson, Mercer, at a minimum,” Murphy said.

        Biden expressed condolences to the families of those who died and listed help being provided by FEMA.

        “You really took a hit,” he said. “The losses we witnessed were profound.”

        To apply for federal assistance, visit DisasterAssistance.gov/ or call 1-800-621-FEMA.

        Biden went house to house in the flood prone section known as the Lost Valley, where front yards are littered with furniture and clothing ruined by the storm. He talked with the residents and hugged a little boy who approached him before walking up to one of the houses that burned down.

        Ducking under the yellow tape, he approached the front steps, now leading only to a pile of rubble.

        Many businesses on North Main Street have been wiped out, with garbage and debris piled high on curbs. Inside, there are signs of the water that rose two to three feet and destroyed anything in its path. Residents face a long rebuild.

        In Manville alone, it will cost millions just to return life to normal for residents and businesses still working to clean up.

        Still, folks insist everyone in the town is pulling together to help in this time of need — and they hope the federal government will come through.

        President Biden then headed to New York City, where residents in Woodside are still busy throwing out damaged belongings and drying out what they can salvage.

        But they are also hanging up American flags and Yankee jerseys, showing their New York pride and ready for any help the president will offer.

        “We just want to see some change back here,” resident Jonathan Rojas said. “Because we never expected anything like this. It looked like an Olympic swimming pool back here. It was crazy.”

        Basements and cars were wiped out by more than five feet of flood waters, and as demolition continues, the recovery has barely begun.

        The president walked down the dusty Queens alley of broken asphalt and now broken dreams, dodging the occasional puddles with senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Hochul by his side.

        “I wish every American could walk down this alley with me to see and talk the people who are devastated, just talk to them,” Biden said. “This is America, where I am standing right now.”

        “It’s about time we step up, they are always the first ones that are hurt and the last ones that are helped, but that’s not going to happen this time,” Biden said.

        Biden warned the storms are going to get worse and people need to listen to the scientists and the economics who say it’s a code red.

        He said when he thinks about climate change, he thinks of “jobs, good paying jobs,” with a wage of $45 to $50 per hour “plus health care. That’s what is needed.”

        Biden ended by singling out a 7-year-old boy with an American flag.

        “The thing about America, every time we end up with a problem, going into a serious circumstance, we come out better than we went in,” Biden said. “That’s because we’re so diverse. That’s America.”

        On Tuesday night, it was Governor Kathy Hochul who toured the damage and made promises. She went to East Elmhurst where she left flowers. She also prayed at the home where a father, mother and child all died in last week’s flooding.

        “I’m more than a governor of this state, I’m a human being … I’m a mom,” Hochul said. “A mother, father and a child were lost in this place, you can’t help but let it affect you.”

        The Federal Emergency Management Agency is making $35,000 grants available to the owners of homes that suffered damage in the flood, and that might help. But it requires navigating a bureaucracy that many find daunting.

        “Language. Access. A lot of the info is in English … and it makes it harder for a predominantly immigrant own,” Kenneth Chiu said.

        Residents who can’t even prepare their own meals anymore, got dinners from a food bank.

        Earlier Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced some additional disaster relief for New Yorkers impacted by the storm.

        Permit fees will be waived starting immediately for city residents working to repair damage from Ida’s remnants, the mayor said. The city is also providing extended hotel emergency shelter service; free water pumping service to those impacted; debit cards through the Red Cross; and rent payment assistance through the Met Council.

        WATCH: Mayor de Blasio announces disaster relief resources for NYC residents

        Over the holiday weekend, Biden approved disaster declarations for both New Jersey and New York.

        In New York, the president’s approval made federal funds available to affected individuals in the counties of Bronx, Kings, Queens, Richmond, and Westchester.

        The assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

        To apply for federal assistance, visit DisasterAssistance.gov/ or call 1-800-621-FEMA.

        The historic flooding claimed the lives of 13 people in New York City, many of whom lived in illegally converted basement apartments in Queens.

        As a result, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a task force and more drastic storm response plan to avoid such catastrophes in the future.

        In New Jersey, Ida’s flooding claimed the lives of at least 27 people, with four people still missing across the state, and the death toll is likely to rise.

        Six people were killed in Westchester and one in Connecticut.

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