'This is everybody's crisis': Biden highlights climate change as he tours Hurricane Ida damage in NY, NJ
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden used a trip to storm-ravaged areas of New York and New Jersey Tuesday to declare climate change a "code red" for the world, calling the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida the latest example of the "existential threat" extreme weather poses.
The president surveyed a hard-hit area in the New York City borough of Queens with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Bill deBlasio and other local officials. In remarks after his tour, Biden warned the "nation and the world are in peril" and action is needed to prevent future devastation from extreme weather events.
"The threat is here. It's not going to get any better. The question is can it get worse? We can stop it from getting worse," Biden said. "This is everybody's crisis."
Earlier he met with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, officials and members of Congress at the Somerset County Emergency Management Training Center in Manville, New Jersey, where he was briefed on the damage caused by the powerful storm before touring a neighborhood littered with furniture and other debris left in Ida's wake.
"We're living through it now. We don't have any more time," Biden said of the effects of climate change. "Every part of the country is getting hit by extreme weather. We can't turn it back very much, but we can prevent it from getting worse."
The visit is Biden's second such trip after Ida. Last week, he traveled to Louisiana, where the storm made landfall before flooding the Northeast with torrential rainfall, leaving more than 60 people dead, including 27 in New Jersey and 13 people in New York City.
The storm drowned dozens of people in their cars. Others were swept away by floodwaters, killed by a falling tree or submerged by rising water in basement apartments.
"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 before leaving the White House.
Climate change and Biden's domestic agenda
Biden is pushing for congressional approval of a $1 trillion infrastructure plan and a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan that includes several items aimed at tackling climate change.
One in three Americans live in counties that have been affected by severe weather events in recent months, and 100 million Americans have been affected by extreme weather this summer, Biden said in his remarks.
"I think we've all seen, even the climate skeptics are seeing that this really does matter," Biden said in pitching his pair of infrastructure bills. "You can't build it what it was before this last storm. You've got to build it better so if the storm occurred again, there would be no damage."
Biden approved major disaster declarations for six New Jersey counties and five New York counties, making federal aid available for communities that suffered catastrophic flooding.
The White House called on Congress to pass a resolution that includes at least $24 billion to respond to natural disasters over the past 18 months, including $10 billion to address initial recovery efforts for Hurricane Ida, an administration official said on condition of anonymity.
The request is separate from a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that Democrats and the White House are pushing to pass an assortment of social safety-net and climate proposals.
Administration officials anticipate the funding for Ida recovery efforts could change as state officials have yet to tally the damage caused by the storm.
Last week in Louisiana, Biden met with Gov. John Bel Edwards and other officials to tour a neighborhood inundated by storm surge flooding. Hurricane Ida left at least 13 people dead and thousands of residents without power more than a week after it hit Louisiana.
Ida is the deadliest hurricane the USA has seen in four years and the deadliest storm in the Northeast since 2012's Superstorm Sandy, which killed more than 100 people.
Contributing: Joey Garrison, Grace Hauck and Christine Fernando