Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said it’s ‘hypocritical’ to blame Canada for the wildfire smoke coating parts of the East Coast and prompting air-quality concerns, arguing that the same problem is afflicting U.S. forests.
Fox News Digital reached out to Kennedy’s campaign seeking a statement from the candidate on the current air-quality levels in parts of the U.S. and whether he believes Canada should pay some kind of penalty for the smoke coming across America’s northern border.
‘It would be hypocritical to blame Canada for a problem that afflicts U.S. forests as well,’ Kennedy said in exclusive comments to Fox News Digital. ‘Besides, attributing wildfires to a single cause would be foolish. Decades of fire suppression, the loss of apex predators and keystone species, ecological disruption due to pesticides, changing climate, soil loss leading to intensified flood-drought cycles and depletion of aquifers all may contribute to the problem.’
Smoke from ongoing wildfires in Canada has traveled as far as South Carolina, casting a thick haze that caused air quality in New York City and Washington, D.C., to drop to record lows. A number of professional sports teams have even postponed games over air-quality concerns.
Many environmental activists and liberal politicians, such as President Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have blamed climate change for the problem.
‘Between NYC in wildfire smoke and this in PR, it bears repeating how unprepared we are for the climate crisis,’ Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. ‘We must adapt our food systems, energy grids, infrastructure, healthcare, etc ASAP to prepare for what’s to come and catch up to what is already here.’
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., echoed that sentiment on social media.
‘These Canadian wildfires are truly unprecedented, and climate change continues to make these disasters worse,’ Schumer wrote on Twitter. ‘We passed the Inflation Reduction Act to fight climate change, and we must do more to speed our transition to cleaner energy and reduce carbon in the atmosphere.’
However, many Republicans counter that these fires are the product of poor forest management, arguing that forests need to be managed through actions such as logging, controlled burns and forest thinning in order to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
‘To be candid, if you look at these issues throughout the United States and Canada, over time, it’s possible that climate is changing,’ former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told Fox News. ‘At the same time, you can say that forest management practices in many places have contributed greatly to having a much higher fuel load, and fuel loads are a large driver of catastrophic wildfire.’
‘If you don’t use methodologies to clear some of that excess product out, that just is sitting there, literally, as a tinderbox box for a match,’ he added. ‘In this case, what we’re seeing from Canada . . . is fires that are largely caused by lightning, strikes with an element of a very, very high fuel load.’
Earlier this week, Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., lambasted politicians who are ‘complaining’ about the Canadian wildfire smoke on Capitol Hill but ‘won’t allow’ forest management in Western states.
‘I have zero empathy for D.C. politicians complaining about the smoke,’ Zinke tweeted. ‘If you won’t allow us to responsibly manage forests, you should have to deal with the consequences just like we do in the West.’
The congressman also posted a video of him standing in front of the Washington Monument that was masked by smoke.
‘Whether you’re a climate change activist or denier, it doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility to manage our forests,’ said Zinke. ‘And if you don’t manage our forests, this is what happens. So welcome to Montana, Washington, D.C.’
As for Kennedy, the latest national polling indicates that he’s grabbing double-digit support as he challenges President Biden in the Democratic primary.