September 13, 2020

Andrea Mérida,
Robert Smith,

Hawkins: Wildfires are the Alarm Bell to Declare Climate Emergency

(Syracuse, NY) – Howie Hawkins, the presidential nominee of the Green and Socialist parties, offered his condolences to the hundreds of thousands of West Coast residents whose lives have been shattered by the wildfires. The fires have killed at least 33 since August as the death toll and damages continue to mount.

Trump is visiting California on Monday. Hawkins blasted Trump for denying climate change, which is making the fire season longer and more severe.

“The wildfires we are seeing not only on the West Coast but across the planet from Australia to the Amazon to the arctic are the latest alarm bell that we have to start treating climate change as the emergency that it is. These extreme weather events are increasing in frequency, intensity, and duration. We need a full-scale mobilization to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels in the next decade, make a rapid transition to clean energy sources, and invest in resiliency measures to help residents survive extreme weather,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins has said that on the first day of his presidency he would formally declare a climate emergency and has outlined steps that he could take without waiting for Congressional action.

“Two years ago, the International Panel on Climate Change identified how much carbon we had left to burn before pushing the planet across the tipping point for extremely dangerous global warming of 1.5º Celsius. In the last 2 years, the world has used up 20% of that carbon budget, leaving us just 8 years at the current rate. While Trump and Republican leaders play make-believe and call climate change a hoax, the Democrats act as if it is a hoax with their platform plank of waiting another 30 years to get to net-zero carbon emissions while promoting the continued use of fossil fuels by investing enormous funding in speculative carbon capture technology,” noted Hawkins.

Hawkins said that the government needed to overhaul its development practices and longstanding wildfire control policies. “Just like we have to stop construction in the expanding flood zones, we have to designate wildfire zones where development can not take place,” noted Hawkins. Hawkins warned that wildfires will inevitably expand to devastate larger cities. A half dozen communities have already been obliterated this year in Oregon, California, and Washington.

Hawkins chided the broadcast media for routinely failing to link the wildfires and other extreme weather events to climate change. “Scientists are clear that climate change is driving the worsening situation with wildfires. Broadcasters and weather reporters need to stop hiding this information from the public,” noted Hawkins.

Hawkins’ Green New Deal, which he has campaigned for since 2010, would achieve zero-to-negative carbon emissions within a decade while implementing an Economic Bill of Rights to guarantee living-wage jobs, Medicare for All, affordable housing, and free public education from pre-K through college. He is calling for an immediate halt to any new fossil fuel infrastructure construction or use, including a ban on fracking. Both major parties have refused to adopt such policies.

Hawkins noted that helicopters Oregon needed to combat the wildfires in Oregon are instead deployed in Afghanistan.

Hawkins said that the hundreds of thousands of West Coast residents forced to flee for their lives in advance of the wildfires is just the beginning of the climate refugee crisis America will experience. Heat waves, droughts, water shortages, wildfires, rising seas, and extreme weather events will force tens of millions to seek shelter elsewhere. While the world governments in Paris in 2016, over US opposition, set 1.5º Celsius as the “safe target” for global warming, parts of the country, including areas of California and New England, have already exceeded those limits.

Hawkins said that the thousands of inmates being used to fight the wildfires deserve better pay, treatment, and training. Hawkins said that government should invest in more professionally-trained firefighters, not use inmates as slave laborers. California just enacted a law that at least gives inmates the chance to use their firefighting experience as an opportunity to be hired as firefighters when released.


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