It marks a rapid rejection of the policies and principles pursued by former President Donald Trump, which ignored climate scientists’ warnings and adopted policies that increased short-term interests in the fossil fuel industry. In arguments that liberal environmentalism threatened American jobs, Trump mocked international efforts such as the Paris Agreement and rolled back dozens of American environmental rules implemented by his predecessors. Now, according to my colleagues’ calculations, Biden has already overturned 10 of these Trump administration recalls and targets more than 60 others.
“It’s not time for small action,” Biden said at the White House on Wednesday, detailing his actions. “We must be brave.”
On the same day, John F. Kerry, the former Secretary of State who now serves as Biden’s special climate envoy, spoke at the World Economic Forum’s virtual gathering of global policy makers and business elites. “We know we have wasted four years in which we were inevitably absent,” Kerry said, describing the climate crisis as a “war,” as “we are losing.”
This statement is in stark contrast to the views of the Trump administration. For Biden’s predecessor, climate change was a “deception” from China. Taking political action to reckon with a warming planet was for Trump simply a way to destroy American business and be played the fool of cynical rivals abroad. When confronted with his denial of climate change, Trump responded with non-sequiturs about air pollution and water quality.
But Trump was a global outlier, perhaps along with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Most ordinary right-wing political parties in the West accept the science behind climate change and support policies that seek to curb man-made carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Major U.S. corporations, including even some fossil fuel corporations, overtook the Trump administration make their own commitments towards sustainability and global emissions targets. Last week, General Motors, one of the largest car companies in the United States, announced that it would stop manufacturing gasoline-powered vehicles by the middle of the next decade.
There is reason to believe that Trump’s departure from the White House could see the end of a particular phase of climate policy. “The Trump years may well have been the death knell of influential denial,” noted the Guardian. “The American public’s concern about the climate crisis is at record levels, with even a majority of Republican voters supporting the government’s intervention in the wake of a year of unprecedented forest fires and hurricanes that cost hundreds of lives and tens of thousands of billions of dollars.”
But there are plenty of fights coming. Republican lawmakers, government officials and fossil fuel lobbyists are mobilizing to challenge Biden on various fronts. “From an oil patch in Alaska to state capitals to congressional halls, industries and their allies aim to slow Biden’s unprecedented push for climate action and keep profits from fossil fuels afloat,” wrote my colleagues, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis. “Republican attorneys general from six states wrote to the new president warning him not to exceed his authority. GOP lawmakers attacked his executive orders as ‘job killers’. And the oil industry revived TV ads promote drilling in federal lands. ”
The Biden administration’s broad response is that their $ 2 billion ambitious climate plan will create millions of new renewable energy and clean technology tasks. “People have been in pain long enough,” said Gina McCarthy, Biden’s new domestic climate adviser. to journalists. “We will not ask for sacrifice. If we do not win the heart in Central America, we will lose. ”
“It’s cheaper now to deal with the climate crisis than it is to ignore it,” Kerry told reporters last week, pointing to the rising sums of taxpayers’ dollars spent by the government in the wake of hurricanes, forest fires and other natural disasters. “We spend more money, people. We’re just not doing it smart. We are not doing it in a way that would actually sustain us in the long run. “He separately too described the moment as “an unprecedented opportunity for wealth creation.”
On the world stage, analysts look a growing green-tech race involves the United States, China and the European Union. Even with the United States back in the Paris climate deal, there is plenty of room for friction with other powers. Biden officials have already stated that Beijing’s commitment to decarbonize China’s economy by 2060 was inadequate given that other major emitters have set similar targets for 2050.
Regardless of policy, researchers are convinced that massive steps must be taken now. “Climate cares about chemistry, not commitments,” Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and Columbia University, told The Post’s Energy 202. “While it’s great to see bold goals, ultimately the only thing will prevent worst-case climate scenarios are large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. ”
But they are more optimistic given the change of leadership in the White House. “When you get to base camp, you should definitely stop and celebrate,” Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, told my colleagues and compared the challenge now to climbing Mount Everest. “Right now we are in base camp. We can see the top of the mountain. ”