'Climate change is making the fires start easier, spread faster': Jay Inslee

George Stephanopoulos interviews Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., on "This Week."
7:35 | 09/13/20

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Transcript for 'Climate change is making the fires start easier, spread faster': Jay Inslee
When you have a heat dome over the entire west coast of the United States, when you have temperatures, record-breaking temperatures, record droughts, then you've got something else at play. California, folks, is America fast forward. What we're experiencing right here is coming to communities all across the United States of America unless we get our act together on climate change. Stark warning there from California governor Gavin Newsom after the worst week of wildfires ever. Up and down the west coast, apock lip tick scenes. Thousands forced to flee their Portland, Seattle and San Francisco now among the worst cities for air quality anywhere in the world. President trump is heading to California tomorrow. We're joined now by Washington governor Jay inslee and Oregon senator Jeff Merkley. Senator, let me begin with you. You spent the day traveling your state yesterday, what have you learned and where do things stand right now? George, it's apocalyptic. I drove 600 miles up and down the state. I never escaped the smoke. We have thousands of people who have lost their homes. I could never have imagined -- envisioned this. The winds proceeded to turn the fires into blow torches and incinerated small towns, you have community after community with fairgrounds full of people, refugees from the fires. Governor inslee, how is the situation in Washington state this morning? The same situation, the skies are a smoke that we have never seen before. Except two, three years ago. It's apocalyptic. It's madden, George, and I'll tell you why. I was in a town the other day that was decimated, 80% of the homes were burned down in southeastern Washington. Talking to a woman who moved there to try to have a peaceful existence in a small town and she just broke down and could not stop crying and what struck me is, as I was listening to her, the only moisture in eastern Washington was the tears of people who have lost their homes and mingling with the ashes and now we have a blowtorch over our states in the west which is climate change, and we know that climate change is making fires start easier, spread faster and intensify. And it's maddening right now we have this cosmic challenge to our communities, with the entire west coast of the United States on fire, to have a president to deny that these are not just wildfires, these are climate fires. And if this is not a signal to the United States, I don't know what it will take. Because as governor Newsom suggested that it may not be fires in the west, it's the floods in Iowa, it's the rising seas that are drowning Miami beach. It's the hurricanes on the east coast. We need to act and we need to act now. And these people whose homes are destroyed that I have seen with their tears in the last few days they deserve action against climate change. Senator Merkley, the president did address that last night in Nevada, he actually bragged about leaving the Paris climate accord and then went on to say this about the fires. Spoke to the folks in Oregon, Washington, they're really -- they've never had anything like this. But you know it's about forest management. Please remember the words, very simple, forest management, please remember. It's about forest managements. And other things. But forest management. Is that contributing to this, senator Merkley? You know, the president has said it's all about raking the forest, it's just a big and devastating lie. We have the cascades snow packs have gotten smaller, our forest has gotten drier, our ocean has gotten warmer and more acidic, this has been happening steadily over the last several decades. These are consequences of warming planet that have huge impacts, huge impacts on rural America, with our forest, with our farming and fishing. This should not be red or blue, or rural or urban, this is devastating to everyone. Just on covid, we need to have a president who follows the science. We need to have a president that follows the science on global warming. The United States has to gets it act in order. This is planetary scale tragedy that we need leadership to end. Governor inslee, we're seeing the response to this fire has been complicated by a lot of disinformation out there on social media, any way to combat? Yes, vote. Vote. And vote on climate. Get out there and vote against any politician like Donald Trump who has downplayed climate change just like he's downplayed covid, and for Donald Trump to say he's a hero of climate change is like saying he's a hero of masks against covid. This idea we could have solved this problem by timber thinning is a bunch of malarkey. Yesterday, I was in a town where they lost 20 homes, the fire came from grass and bunch grass and sage brush, it doesn't have a thing to do with thinning timber. It's just a bunch of malarkey. There are places where it makes sense to thin our timber, we're doing that. The trump administration doesn't want to help us to actually finance that. They just want an excuse. It's way too late to be debating this. The time for excuses, for denial, for downplaying this, those days are over. The days of consequence are upon us. The point I want to make about this event, it's not just happening to us and it's happening today, look, most of the scientists thought, you know, maybe we had a few more years to deal with this but it's today. The Orange skies over California is something that we thought Hollywood just would portray in some apocalypse movie, but it's today. So we need to act, we need to act now. We're doing it, we're building jobs, we're putting people to work. We have a great candidate in Joe Biden who understands that we can put people to work. You know that town that burned down, you can see the wind turbans there that are generating clean electricity and putting people to good union jobs, generating clean energy and that's the future we need. But we need to have action. Vote this year. Finally senator Merkley, there's some signs that the weather could bring some relief in the coming days, what's your greatest need in Oregon right now? Well, we're hearing reports that as the winds start to move back onshore, we may have gusting starting this afternoon, we're very worried about that. This would move the fires back to the east. It's, right now the winds are calm, we have a little bit more humidity, that's great. But the weather can change and we still have fires burning across our state. We're very concerned about this moment. And the days to come. Gentlemen, thank you very much. It's such a tough situation out there. Thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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