President Joe Biden on Tuesday pledged his administration’s full support in Hurricane Ida relief efforts and made his case for using his infrastructure plan to take immediate action to address the effects of the climate crisis.
“My message to everyone grappling with this devastation is: We’re here. We’re not going home til this gets done. I really mean that. We’re not leaving. We’re going to continue to shout as long as it takes to get real progress here, folks,” Biden said after touring damage caused by the hurricane in Queens, New York.
The President continued: “And we have to take some bold action now to tackle the accelerating effects of climate.”
“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,” Biden said. “The question is, can it get worse? We can stop it from getting worse.”
The President again pitched his sweeping infrastructure plan, which he argues would better protect the nation from future extreme weather events.
“People are beginning to realize this is much, much bigger than anyone was willing to believe,” Biden said.
“We’ve 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,” the President added. “That’s not hyperbole. That is a fact.”
Earlier in the day, Biden met with officials in New Jersey and said: “For decades, scientists have warned of extreme weather — would be more extreme and climate change was here, and we’re living through it now. We don’t have any more time.” He said he has been on the telephone and on the road “an awful lot” between weather events in California, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi and the Northeast.
He continued, “Every part of the country is getting hit by extreme weather, and we’re now living in real time what the country’s gonna look like. And if we don’t do — so we can’t turn it back very much but we can prevent it from getting worse.”
Biden arrived in New Jersey Tuesday morning and was greeted by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Murphy’s wife, Tammy Murphy, and other state lawmakers. He then received a briefing on the damage and described the damage as “profound.”
Biden called this moment an inflection point for doing something about climate change.
“You really took a hit,” Biden told the local officials of Hurricane Ida, expressing his condolences and thanking first responders for their courage.
After Ida made its way through Louisiana and Mississippi, its remnants — a tropical depression — led to heavy rain, flooding and tornadoes along the northeast.
In addition to the 13 storm-related deaths in Louisiana, there have been at least 50 storm-related deaths in the Northeast, spanning Connecticut, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Biden has approved disaster declarations for New Jersey and New York.
Of the dozens killed in the East, many died in flooded homes — including many in flooded basements — or while overtaken by water in or outside their vehicles.
The visit marks the President’s second trip in the span of a week to survey damage brought by the storm. On Friday, Biden visited several sites in Louisiana, which included meetings on disaster response and touring neighborhoods ravaged by the hurricane.
After it swept out of the Gulf and into the Northeast, the rains from Ida wreaked havoc. Major interstates across the Northeast flooded. Water rushed into a number of New York City subway stations, and more than 800 subway riders had to be evacuated. As of Monday, nearly half a million businesses and homes in Louisiana remained without power, according to PowerOutage.US.
Biden made the case for more climate-resilient infrastructure during his visit to Louisiana, pointing to his proposals to Congress.
“Things have changed so drastically in terms of the environment. We’ve already crossed certain thresholds. We can’t build back roads, highways, bridges, anything to what it was before. We gotta build back to what it is now, what’s needed now,” Biden said on Friday. “And I know the heads of the energy companies understand this really well. We have a significant piece of legislation, both the infrastructure bill and a budget thing, a reconciliation bill, that calls for significant investment in being able to deal with what is about to come.”
And state and local leaders are sounding an urgent alarm on climate change and calling for action on infrastructure legislation so states can be better prepared for extreme weather events in the future.
“We haven’t experienced this before, but we should expect it the next time, and that means we have to continue investments in infrastructure, working in partnership with our federal government, and support from (New York Democratic) Senator (Chuck) Schumer and President Biden,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
The rainfall from Ida broke a record in New York City that had been set just one week earlier, something Mayor Bill de Blasio said is “the biggest wake-up call we could possibly get.”
The trip to the Northeast also comes as Biden contends with multiple crises, including a worsening Covid-19 pandemic, renewed concerns about America’s economic recovery thanks to the latest jobs report, a potential wrench in his infrastructure and spending proposal, fallout from the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Texas’ new abortion restrictions.
This story and its headline have been updated with additional developments on Tuesday.
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