Leading Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are facing heightened demands to back the Green New Deal as wildfires continue to scorch western states, causing apocalyptic-looking orange skies and "catastrophic" damage.
"The sky is literally the wrong color and they're still asking how we can afford a Green New Deal," tweeted Georgia Parke, digital communications director for Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign.
It's the Green New Deal or the blood red apocalypse. Your choice. pic.twitter.com/Os6wUb0PqQ
— Peter Gleick (@PeterGleick) September 10, 2020
The National Interagency Fire Center said Wednesday that 96 large fires have now burned over 3.4 million acres across the nation, mostly in the west. "Fires in California, Oregon, and Washington burned tens of thousands of acres yesterday, causing evacuation orders for many residents near these fires," the agency said.
The fires have been blamed for the deaths of seven people while smoke from the flames stretches as far as Ohio. While remaining residents experience rolling power shutoffs, evacuees face further burdens of finding shelter because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Firefighters in heatwave-stricken California—where the ongoing wave of wildfires has busted the state record with over 2 million acres burned—have been battling extreme fire behavior. The BBC described the scale of the fires as "mind-boggling." And a KQED headline from Wednesday put the scene in the San Francisco area in blunt terms: "No, You Didn't Wake Up to the Apocalypse. Wildfire Smoke Turns Bay Area Sky Orange and Dark."
The unforgiving wildfire activity, boosted by high temperatures and high winds, is gripping the Pacific Northwest as well. From the Associated Press:
Numerous wildfires burned in Oregon's forested valleys and along the coast, destroying hundreds of homes and causing mass evacuations. Farther north, flames devoured buildings and huge tracts of land in Washington state.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday that over 300,000 acres were burning across the state. "We expect to see a great deal of loss—both in structures and in human lives. This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state," she said.
In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee remarked Wednesday on what he described as "an extraordinary series of events we have suffered." Describing blazes he viewed in Sumner, Inslee called them "the most catastrophic fires we've had in the history of the state."
"I'll be thinking of these fires and the communities they're impacting when we take our next steps to defeat climate change," Inslee tweeted Wednesday.
With those threats in mind, advocates for climate action pointed fingers at Democrats including Pelosi, who's been in the crosshairs of activists including Sunrise Movement youth over her failure to back the Green New Deal and whose congressional constituents are now looking up at orange-tinted skies.
Other Democrats singled out on social media included Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California—who notably brushed off youth activists demanding a Green New Deal; presidential nominee Joe Biden, who hasn't fully endorsed the legislation; and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who recently approved a slew of new permits for fracking.
i will never forget being apart of the sit-in in @SpeakerPelosi's office 2 years ago and watching scenes of the then California wildfires play on CNN on her office TV. Two years later and she still hasn't supported the Green New Deal. https://t.co/E3DyMouQl5
— Erin Bridges (@erin_bridges_94) September 9, 2020
“There’s reasons why I can’t, because there’s no way to pay for it. I don’t agree with what the resolution says. That’s part of it,” Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein on the Green New Deal, February 22, 2019.https://t.co/TDaj7Ind7D
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— Billy Fleming (@JooBilly) September 10, 2020
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, the sky is orange, and the leaders of the Democratic Party remain vehemently opposed to both Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.
— Ben Spielberg (@BenSpielberg) September 10, 2020
Imagine being Speaker of the House, waking up to a orange sky because your entire state is on fire and then not immediately prioritizing a Green New Deal
— Nate Roberts (@natesroberts) September 9, 2020
“But how will we pay for a Green New Deal? It’s just too expensive!” pic.twitter.com/t9l0MaHNnj
— Jamie Margolin (@Jamie_Margolin) September 10, 2020
Climate change will escalate this problem every year. Any politician who has not signed onto the Green New Deal, the absolute bare minimum we need, should be be voted out of office. Dems like Pelosi who treat it as a joke ("the Green New Dream") are complicit in the catastrophe. pic.twitter.com/FaGiLl9hKA
— Nathan J Robinson (@NathanJRobinson) September 9, 2020
— Sunrise Movement (@sunrisemvmt) September 10, 2020
You and Biden have the responsibility to do more and say more about the fires in the West.
They were caused by climate change and only real action, like enacting a #GreenNewDeal, will stop them from being so frequent and destructive.
We need real action from you both. https://t.co/OklU4JVvnG
— Sunrise Movement (@sunrisemvmt) September 9, 2020
"Our cities are unrecognizable as our communities are on fire once again," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) tweeted Wednesday.
"The climate crisis isn't in the distant future—it's here," she continued. "We need bold climate action that matches the scale of this crisis. We need the Green New Deal. The cost of inaction is far too great."
Another lawmaker stressing the urgency of the legislation was Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who introduced Green New Deal resolution last year with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
"This cannot become our new normal," Markey tweeted Wednesday alongside an image of the Bay Area. "Our land is on fire and our communities are suffering. We must pass a Green New Deal."