California Gov. Gavin Newsom told President Trump on Monday that “climate change is real” as the president received an emergency briefing on more than 90 wildfires that have burned millions of acres in three western states.
“Something’s happened to the plumbing of the world,” Mr. Newsom told Mr. Trump at an emergency operations center near Sacramento. “We come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in, and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real, and that is exacerbating this.”
The Democratic governor urged the president, “Please respect, and I know you do, the difference of opinion out here as it relates to this fundamental issue on the issue of climate change.”
“Absolutely,” the president said.
But when another official said climate change is a main cause of the fires, Mr. Trump cut in, “It will start getting cooler.”
“Just watch. I don’t think science knows, actually,” Mr. Trump said.
Despite their differing views on climate change, the president praised Mr. Newsom for his “great coordination” with the administration on the crisis.
“Together we’ll keep the people safe,” Mr. Trump said. “I know we come from different sides of the planet, but we actually have a great relationship. Good man.”
Wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington state have burned more than 4.6 million acres and killed at least 35 people. Mr. Newsom said 4,200 structures have been destroyed in California, and 44,000 residents have been evacuated.
There are 16,500 firefighters battling the fires in California. The governor said the state experienced more than 14,000 lightning strikes in a three-day period recently.
The president told reporters earlier in the day that poor forest management in Western states is contributing to the fires.
“When trees fall down after a short period of time they become very dry — really like a matchstick … and they can explode — also leaves,” the president said. “When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires. You drop a cigarette on it, you come back an hour later and you have a forest fire.”
Mr. Newsom agreed with the president that “we have not done justice on our forest management.” But he noted that 57% of the state’s land is federal forestland, and 3% is state forestland.
Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden criticized Mr. Trump’s views on climate change on Monday, calling the president a “climate arsonist.” Mr. Biden said the threat of climate change “requires action, not scapegoating.”
“Donald Trump’s climate denial may not have caused these fires, and record floods, and record hurricanes, but if he gets a second term these hellish events will become more common, more devastating, and more deadly,” Mr. Biden said in Wilmington, Del.
During his stop in California, the president also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross to seven California Army National Guardsmen for rescuing 242 people who were trapped by the Creek Fire at a campground.
Despite being advised to turn back due to heavy smoke and dangerous winds, the helicopter pilots and crew members flew to the campground three times to pick up the victims, some of whom had been burned. Their mission on Sept. 5 lasted 10 hours.
“Our nation is strong because of remarkable people like these service members,” Mr. Trump said.
• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this story.