US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced $44 million in investments aimed at strengthening climate resilience across the National Parks system during a tour of the American West, which is grappling with a historic heatwave.
“We've seen historic floods, more intense droughts, wildfires, spreading smoky haze, which is I could sense today … but none of this need be inevitable,” Mr Biden said at an Arizona event to declare a new national monument and tout his landmark Inflation Reduction Act climate law.
“There's more work ahead to combat the existential threat of climate change … there's nothing beyond our capacity when we act together. Nothing, nothing at all.”
But he criticised the partisanship surrounding his administration's historic climate agenda, a sign of rhetoric likely to surface as the 2024 presidential election ramps up.
He said that Donald Trump-supporting Republican “extremists” in Congress “are trying to undo” his administration's climate progress.
“I didn't get any help from the guys on the other team,” the President said.
The new climate funding emphasises conservation efforts, including 43 projects across 39 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, the White House said.
It piggybacks on the President's declaration of a new national monument, the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni, protecting about 2.5 million hectares of land surrounding the Grand Canyon.
“There is no national treasure that is greater than the Grand Canyon … an enduring symbol of America to the world,” Mr Biden said.
The new monument has a particular significance to the region's indigenous population, with its name meaning “where the Indigenous people roam, our ancestral footprints”.
The first ever Native American cabinet member, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, spoke before Mr Biden made his remarks.
Wiping tears from her eyes, she applauded the declaration for helping to ensure “indigenous wisdom and perspective informs our decisions so that together we will usher in a future that our grandchildren deserve to inherit”.
Ali Zaidi, the White House national climate adviser, told reporters the monument designation is truly a landmark moment.
“In addition to telling this vibrant [indigenous] story – and it's an important one for us to be leaning into here as a country … this is also an incredibly important ecosystem in terms of climate resilience,” he said.
The President and other White House officials, including second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, are this week travelling outside Washington to the heatwave-hit West in the run-up to the anniversary of Mr Biden's Inflation Reduction Act climate law.
The region has endured deadly and historically high temperatures this summer. Phoenix, Arizona, logged the hottest month of any US city on record, with 31 consecutive days at or above 43°C.
“The [American] West, in particular, has been feeling the brunt of this, with heatwaves blanketing communities, the skies turning orange,” Mr Zaidi told reporters en route to Arizona.
And the US has been hit by more than heatwaves in recent months.
On the East Coast this week, more than 300,000 homes and businesses were without power on Tuesday morning after powerful thunderstorms lashed region.
Tornado watches and warnings have been posted in 10 states, from Tennessee to New York. The National Weather Service issued a rare tornado watch for Washington, warning of a “significant threat of damaging and locally destructive hurricane-force winds”.
Mr Biden is scheduled to discuss the links between “our changing planet” and the recent deadly weather events in a Wednesday interview with the Weather Channel.