Biden’s remarks on Monday were meant to address the wildfires that have been raging across Western states for three weeks, and they came as Trump traveled to California for a briefing with emergency response officials after having faced criticism for ignoring the devastation.

Flames lick above vehicles as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif., on Sept. 9, 2020. | Noah Berger/AP Photo

Biden likened Trump’s management of the coronavirus pandemic to his “lack of a national strategy” to combat climate change, accusing the administration of leaving the U.S. with a “patchwork of solutions.”

The manifold effects of rising global temperatures require “leadership, not scapegoating,” Biden said, and they demand that the president “meet the threshold duty of the office: To care. To care for everyone. To defend us from every attack, seen and unseen. Always and without exception.”

“Because here’s the deal,” Biden continued. “Hurricanes don’t swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don’t skip towns that voted a certain way. The impacts of climate change don’t pick and choose. That’s because it’s not a partisan phenomenon. It’s science, and our response should be the same.”

Throughout his speech, the former vice president repeatedly cast Trump as a leader averse to scientific evidence and driven by political impulses, even in times of national disaster.

Biden mentioned Trump’s suggestion that windmills cause cancer, his claim that energy-efficient light bulbs make him “look orange,” his tossing of paper towels to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and his admonition that forest management officials in California should “clean your floors.”

“He’s already said he wanted to withhold aid to California, to punish the people of California, because they didn’t vote for him,” Biden said, referring to allegations leveled last month by a former high-ranking official at the Department of Homeland Security.

“This is another crisis. Another crisis he won’t take responsibility for. The West is literally on fire, and he blames the people whose homes and communities are burning,” Biden said. “He says, quote, ‘You’ve got to clean your floors. You got to clean your forest.’”

Biden, citing a Pentagon study on climate change, even invoked reports from earlier this month that the president had made derogatory comments about fallen U.S. service members, and he conjured a dystopic vision of America when describing a potential second Trump term.

“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. “If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater?”

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