(NEW YORK) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday continued his tour of damage caused by Hurricane Ida, traveling to New York and New Jersey to see first-hand the devastation the massive storm inflicted on the Northeast.
The president was reprising his role as consoler in chief, meeting with local leaders to get a briefing on the damage to the area, and touring a neighborhood in Manville, New Jersey, before heading to Queens in New York to tour the damage there, and deliver remarks.
“Walking these neighborhoods, meeting the families and the first responders, seeing how folks are doing after this destruction and pain and another devastating storm, is an eye-opener,” the president said in Queens, speaking alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other elected officials from the state.
During his visits to see the devastated areas, the president focused his message on the need to address climate change, as extreme weather events continue to impact the United States — making the case for his $1 trillion infrastructure bill that recently passed the Senate with bipartisan support, in addition to a $3.5 trillion social spending bill that comprises his “Build Back Better” agenda as ways to do so.
“The evidence is clear. Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy, and the threat is here,” Biden said Tuesday afternoon in New York. “It’s not going to get any better. The question — can it get worse? We can stop it from getting worse.”
“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. And that’s not hyperbole. That is a fact. They’ve been warning us the extreme weather would get more extreme over the decade, and we’re living it in real time now,” Biden added.
Biden said that amid the storm’s destruction there was also an “opportunity” to open the country’s eyes and get people to heed the urgent warnings from scientists, adding, “I think we’ve all seen –even the climate skeptics are seeing — that this really does matter.”
Earlier Tuesday, during a briefing with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and other elected officials from the states, Biden also hit hard on the climate change message.
“This is an opportunity. I think the country’s finally acknowledged the fact that global warming is real, and it’s moving at an incredible pace. And we’ve got to do something about it,” he said.
While surveying the damage in Manville, New Jersey, Biden spoke with residents on the ground, offering some hugs. Yards where houses once stood were covered in debris — from wooden planks and mattresses to Christmas decorations.
Tuesday’s trip follows the president’s trip to Louisiana’s gulf coast Friday where Hurricane Ida made landfall, where he made similar arguments for his policy proposals currently working their way through Congress.
“Things are changing so drastically in terms of the environment,” the president said Friday. “We’ve already crossed certain thresholds. We can’t build back a road, a highway, a bridge or anything to what it was before. I mean, you got to build back to what it is now, what’s needed now.”
The White House has continued to highlight the federal response to the devastating storm that has claimed the lives of at least 68 people across 8 states. Over the weekend, President Biden approved emergency declarations for New York and New Jersey to provide federal aid to the recovery efforts in impacted areas.
“This was a historic storm, deadly. Tragically the loss of 27 lives, four still missing, small businesses, and roadways, and in some cases schools. First responders were extraordinarily heroic, but there is a significant loss associated with this storm. We’ll do all that we can in the state, but we need the federal government in a big way,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in an interview with CBS News on Sunday.
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