Joe Biden’s climate change plea for Republicans: let’s trust Democrats

Former vice-president has been against climate denial in the past, but talks of events such as the New Mexico tornado being caused by climate change

Former vice-president Joe Biden has used the tragic events of last week’s New Mexico tornado as part of a broader political appeal for climate change action in the Trump era.

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He used his first speech since leaving office to talk about the devastation caused by the earthquake-calm tornadoes that killed five and injured 200 in the state on 14 January. But Biden said that the events could also be “a consequence of the warming of the planet”.

In a statement sent on Thursday night Biden said that it was “not unrealistic” to expect that there would be “more tornadoes in this part of the world because of climate change”.

Biden, the first vice-president to be born outside the US and president Barack Obama’s first-term vice-president, has been a friend and ally of climate change campaigner Al Gore, who is working to pass a bill through Congress called the Climate Security Act, which is supported by more than 700 scientists and would set in motion efforts to reduce emissions.

Gore had campaigned alongside Biden in 2008.

While critics of climate change in the Democratic party might have hoped Biden would offer some sort of muted appeal in his first public appearance since leaving office – more subtle than he was in his previous speeches – he made no such appeal.

Instead, Biden used his opening remarks at the Roosevelt Institute’s presidential forum on progressive reform to label Trump’s administration “anti-science”.

“A young girl who learned of the asteroid impact in Florida said, ‘this is so bad’,” Biden said. “And that, on a personal level, to me, reveals more about the nature of modern America than any other moment that I’ve lived.”

The retired vice-president argued that the Trump administration’s refusal to accept the scientific facts around climate change and questioning of the so-called “alt-right” had made it harder for Democrats to win on the centre ground in US politics.

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“We were not supposed to be in the kind of arms race the Republicans had been in for about 60 years or so,” he said. “That meant we could do the things that were necessary for the good of the American people, but that were just not welcome by them.”

His speech used the New Mexico tornado to attack Trump’s plans to build a wall on the southern border and his campaign rhetoric suggesting that the caravan of asylum seekers attempting to cross the border into the US could not come without being sent back to their country of origin.

“We have to be clear and convince people that the forces that caused this migration … you could attach to climate change,” he said. “That’s a terrible thing to say.”

Biden also gave a new stump speech to a large gathering of leftwingers in Manhattan’s trendy Rockefeller Center neighbourhood, where he called on Congress to find a path to “common ground” on energy legislation.

“The idea that you could bring together a Republican or Democrat and say, ‘This is our energy policy,’ says we have crossed the chasm,” he said. “The fact that we can trust Congress to listen to a bipartisan message is our hope.”

The audience mostly chanted “One Hillary”, a reference to the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, who was a fierce opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed route for crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico.

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