Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Getty Images photos: Joshua Roberts and Paul J. Richards/AFP

The devastating West Coast wildfires have, at least for now, put a hot glare on the role of climate change in the 2020 presidential election.

Catch up fast: Joe Biden called President Trump a "climate arsonist" Monday in a speech that argued his dismissal of consensus climate science is a threat to people nationwide.

Shortly afterward, Trump clashed with California officials over global warming's role in states' fire crisis, even as both sides agreed on the need for better vegetation management.

  • "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch," Trump told Wade Crowfoot, the state's natural resources secretary. Crowfoot said, "I wish science agreed with you," and Trump replied, "I don't think science knows."

Why it matters: The day's events together represent a proxy clash over climate policy, and also show how the disasters on the West Coast are raising the topic's profile in the election's final stretch.

Quick take: Let's go back to Biden's speech, which showed the campaign's political strategy on climate change and extreme weather.

  • Biden is trying to politically flip the script as they compete for suburban votes. Trump has, among other things, suggested that the sometimes-destructive protests in some cities will drive suburban voters to embrace his law and order message.
  • "Donald Trump warns that integration is threatening our suburbs. That's ridiculous. You know what is actually threatening our suburbs? Wildfires are burning the suburbs of the West. Floods are wiping out suburban neighborhoods in the Midwest," Biden said.
  • From a raw political standpoint, the states hardest hit by the wildfires — California, Oregon and Washington — are not up for grabs.
  • But while the wildfires prompted Biden's speech, it was shot through with efforts to emphasize the effects of climate change across the country — including key swing states.
  • The speech ranged from discussing flooding in Michigan to the impact of powerful storms hitting Florida and North Carolina, all of which are in play in November.

What we're watching: How much climate change comes up in the Trump-Biden debates that begin in late September.

  • It seems very likely that the tragedies unfolding in on the West Coast will lead to more questions about climate change than would have occurred otherwise.

Go deeper: In California, Trump continues to deny climate change is real: "It will start getting cooler" (L.A. Times)

Go deeper

Debate dashboard: Catch up fast

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

What to watch in tonight's debate

Joe Biden (left) and President Trump (right) are facing off in Cleveland for the first presidential debate. Photos: Alex Wong (of Biden) and David Hume Kennerly (of Trump)/Getty Images

President Trump will try to break Joe Biden's composure by going after his son Hunter and other family members in tonight's first presidential debate — a campaign source tells Axios "nothing will be off the table" — while Biden plans to stick to the economy, coronavirus and new revelations about how Trump avoided paying taxes.

Driving the news: Biden and Trump are set to debate at 9pm ET at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and it will be moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace.

Sep 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Pro-Trump super PAC launches $40M ad blitz in sprint to election

Screengrab of an ad, courtesy of America First Action.

America First Action, the biggest pro-Trump super PAC, is spending another $40 million on economy-focused ads in key states ahead of November, including a new targeted campaign in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Why it matters: It shows Republicans remain concerned about Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina and even Georgia — all states Trump won in 2016.