Tides are changing for national climate policy

The Trump administration did not prioritize climate change, but Biden-Harris promise to

Sophia Tompkins, Contributing Writer

With a new administration comes plenty of new changes. One of the many issues President-elect Joe Biden’s new administration intends on tackling in their first few months in office is climate change.

Based on recent statistics from Statista, global temperatures are consistently among the hottest ever reported, which is the direct cause of a multitude of crises including the rise in sea level, a decline in arctic ice and more weather-related disasters like hurricanes, fires and droughts.

As of October, there have been 16 weather or climate-related disasters, which ties with the highest annual record set in both 2011 and 2017. There were 11 severe storms, three tropical cyclones, one major wildfire spanning much of the northwestern part of the U.S. and one drought since January 2020. 

These events caused almost 200 total deaths and economic losses of more than $1 billion each. This is the sixth consecutive year in which more than 10 events had at least a $1 billion impact on the U.S. economy, according to the National Center for Environmental Information.

There has been significant criticism of how President Donald Trump’s administration handled climate change, including Trump’s refusal to acknowledge its existence. Trump was particularly vocal on Twitter with comments such as, “I don’t believe it,” “I don’t know that it’s man-made,” “It’s freezing in New York — where the hell is global warming,” and “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

In office, Trump dismantled the Clean Power Plan, refused to ban super pollutants, rolled back limitations on methane pollution from oil and gas infrastructure, loosened emissions standards for transportation vehicles and withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Part of Trump’s 2016 campaign platform was to dissolve many of the environmental regulations that impeded manufacturing and fossil fuel industries, which he consequently did. Despite Reuters’ 2019 poll claiming 70% of American’s wanted immediate and aggressive action against climate change, the Trump administration maintained a record in favor of manufacturing and fossil fuel industries.

However, some environmental relief may have been provided because of COVID-19. Based on a 2020 study from National Center for Biotechnology Information, nature benefited from the social, industrial and urban shut-down. There were notable improvements in air quality, river cleanliness, noise pollution, and wildlife. In only a few months there were drastic improvements to the environment, but experts warn that this will not last

Associate professor and epidemiologist Jill Baumgartner from McGill University reported to the New York Times that “[the pandemic] is not a sustainable way to reduce air pollution, and the long-term economic and well-being impacts of this crisis are going to be devastating for many people.”

In contrast to Trump’s focus on industry over environment, Biden promises to reform the current climate change plans to sustain a healthier planet. According to the Biden-Harris campaign website, there are several goals to try to help the planet now and in the future:

Goal 1: By 2050, reach a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions

Goal 2: Rebuild the national infrastructure to avert, lessen and resist climate change by making “smart infrastructure investments.”

Goal 3: Incorporate climate change into foreign policy and national security plans and motivate other nations to recommit to climate change reform. Biden also aims to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change. 

Goal 4: Prevent environmental injustice, specifically to low-income communities and those of color.

Goal 5: Support workers and communities who contributed to the industrial revolution and resulting economic growth.

In order to reach these aspirations, Biden committed to making a “historic investment in our clean energy future and environmental justice paid for by rolling back the Trump tax incentives that enrich corporations at the expense of American jobs and the environment.”

His proposal intends to invest $1.7 trillion in the environment within the next decade. It also hopes for additional investment from the private corporations and states to aggregate an additional $5 trillion. Biden’s website states the desire to overturn Trump’s tax cuts and incentives to push profits internationally. Biden believes this reversal will jump start a Clean Energy Revolution that generates new domestic employment opportunities.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris note the brevity of the climate crisis on their website, stating that it is the “great[est] challenge facing our country and our world.” The Biden climate plan promises to immediately begin work on policies that will mutually benefit the economy and the environment.