President Joe Biden declared climate change has become “everybody’s crisis” on Tuesday as he toured neighborhoods flooded by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, warning it’s time for America to get serious about the “code red” danger or face ever worse loss of life and property.
Biden spoke after walking streets in New Jersey and then Queens in New York City, meeting people whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged by flooding when Ida barreled through. The storm dumped record amounts of rain onto already saturated ground and was blamed for more than a dozen deaths in the city.
The president said he thinks the damage everyone is seeing, from wildfires in the West to hurricane havoc in the South and Northeast, is turning climate-change skeptics into believers, but years of unheeded warnings from scientists, economists, and others meantime for action is short.
“The threat is here. It is not getting any better,” Biden said in New York. “The question is can it get worse. We can stop it from getting worse.”
Biden sounded a similar theme before he toured Manville, New Jersey, also ravaged by severe flooding caused by Ida.
“Every part of the country, every part of the country is getting hit by extreme weather,” Biden said during a briefing with officials in Somerset County, including Gov. Phil Murphy.
He said the threat from wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and other extreme weather must be dealt with in ways that will lessen the devastating effects of climate change.
“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.”
The natural disasters have given Biden an opening to push Congress to approve his plan to spend $1 trillion to fortify infrastructure nationwide, including electrical grids, water, and sewer systems, to better defend against extreme weather. The legislation has cleared the Senate and awaits a House vote.
Biden also talked up a side benefit of the plan, the “good-paying jobs” he said it will create.
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.
In New Jersey, Biden walked along a street in the Lost Valley neighborhood of Manville, where flooding is common and the cleanup continues after the Raritan River overflowed its banks. Many front lawns were covered with waterlogged couches, broken pianos, crumbled plaster, and other debris.
In all, at least 50 people were killed in six Eastern states as record rainfall last week overwhelmed rivers and sewer systems. Some people were trapped in fast-filling basement apartments and cars, or were swept away as they tried to escape. The storm also spawned several tornadoes.
More than half of the deaths, 27, were recorded in New Jersey. In New York City, 13 people were killed, including 11 in Queens.