President Joe Biden hosted a virtual meeting with Western governors on Wednesday to discuss the drought and heat waves in the US that are worsening with climate change and how the country can better prepare for a record-breaking wildfire season.
The meeting comes as a devastating heat wave hits the Pacific Northwest, leaving thousands of people without electricity, and most of the western US is grappling with the worst drought in two decades. The conditions sparked wildfires in California, Nevada, and Washington as early as the start of the season.
Attendees include Vice President Kamala Harris and Democratic governors from Oregon, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, and Colorado, and Republican governors from Utah and Wyoming. Cabinet members and business leaders also attend.
“The threat from forest fires in the west is greater than ever this year,” Biden said during the meeting. “Right now we have to act and act quickly.”
“The truth is that we are catching up,” said the president. “This is an area that is underserved.”
California, grappling with depleted reservoirs and snow cover, will deploy its largest fire department in history on site during peak fire season. The state has urged residents to limit electricity usage to avoid power outages in anticipation of fires after experiencing the worst season on record last year.
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Biden also said he is raising wages for federal firefighters to $ 15 an hour after speaking with the chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week about government disaster risk reduction.
Actions come as climate change fuels more frequent and severe weather disasters, and scientists call for immediate action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the most devastating effects of global warming.
The President announced in May that FEMA would double available funds to help cities and states prepare for extreme weather disasters, from $ 500 million last year to $ 1 billion this year.
Still, Biden’s recent bipartisan infrastructure deal left out measures to combat climate change, increase spending to cope with worsening disasters, and move the country to a clean energy economy. The democratic legislature must now take up these measures through a separate law of reconciliation.