Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday blamed climate change for wildfires that have destroyed almost 28,000 acres in Nevada this summer.
"The West is being devastated by wildfires," Reid said in response to a reporter's question during a press conference in the Capitol. "Millions of acres are burning. Millions of acres have burned.… They're occurring all over. Why? Because the climate has changed. The winters are shorter, the summers are hotter."
It was the second time this week that Reid has blamed climate change for the recent fires. "The West is burning," he told Nevada reporters in a meeting, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal story published Wednesday. "I could be wrong, but I don't think we've ever had a fire in the Spring Mountains, Charleston range like we just had."
Reid doesn't normally talk about climate change at press conferences in the Capitol, mainly because it hasn't been a hot topic for the media since legislation to address the issue was being debated in 2010. But the majority leader clearly wanted to talk about the problem this week.
Before his usual meeting with reporters on Thursday afternoon, his office included the Review-Journal article in an e-mailed invitation to the press conference. "I am very confident if you asked him a follow-up he would give you a good answer," Kristen Orthman said in an e-mail to National Journal.
When the subject was brought up at the end of the news conference, Reid responded: "I'm glad I waited for your question." Asked what the Senate could do in response to the wildfires, Reid said: "Talk about climate change as if it really exists, not beat around the bush."
Most scientists believe greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels, are causing Earth's temperatures to rise. The consensus is not as strong on whether individual events such as wildfires and intense storms are caused or exacerbated by climate change.
Reid has recently said he plans to bring a bipartisan energy-efficiency bill to the floor by month's end. But no reporter asked about that measure, and Reid didn't volunteer any more information on his plans.
This article appears in the July 19, 2013 edition of NJ Daily.