In a lead editorial entitled “The Plague Year,” The Economist minces no words: “Like the COVID-19 endemic, climate change is impervious to populace denials, global in the destruction it causes and will be far more costly to deal with in the future if it is neglected now.
“Something good can come from the misery of The Plague Year,” the editorial concludes. “It should include a new social contract fit for the 21st century.”
As I see it, a significant focus of such an initiative should clearly address what to do about climate change. What are significant first steps in a new Biden administration to confront this threat to humanity? Last August, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. proposed a $2 trillion plan over the next four years to significantly launch action on the crisis.
Its major features, according to The New York Times:
—Achieve a substantial head start on achieving an emissions-free U.S. power sector by 2035
—Upgrade four million buildings in the U.S. between 2021-2025 to meet the highest standards for energy efficiency
—Begin to convert U.S. government vehicles into electric vehicles, so that the auto industry and its deep bench of suppliers will follow suit
—Establish an Office of Environmental and Climate Justice at the Justice Department to address the need for disadvantaged U.S. communities to receive 40 percent of all the clean energy and infrastructure benefits Mr. Biden is proposing, assuming ratification by Congress.
BIDEN’S CURRENT TAKE
“Folks, we’re in a crisis,” Mr. Biden said on December 20, in announcing a team of advisers on climate change. “Just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change. We need to meet this moment with the urgency it demands.” As The Washington Post reported on December 22, the President-elect’s team is sketching out executive orders aimed at mobilizing the entire federal government to combat global warming and what he termed “environmental injustice”.
Mr. Biden has vowed to rejoin the Paris climate accord immediately after his inauguration, perhaps even the same day. According to Post reporters Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin: “A warming planet has made the issue increasing difficult to ignore, as the litany of climate-related catastrophes has grown with each passing year.
They add: “At the current rate, Earth is on pace to warm more than 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, a threat that Mr. Biden has called ‘existential’ and one of his central priorities, even amid the coronavirus pandemic and what a number of analysts have termed “a crippled economy”.In choosing former Environmental Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy and former Secretary of State John F. Kerry as his top domestic and international climate advisers”, according to the Post, “the incoming President has surrounded himself with officials who view the Earth’s warming as a crisis.
“Although Biden has vowed to move quickly and forcefully,” the Post reporters caution, “his agenda faces obstacles. He will be able to make some changes with the stroke of a pen. But other efforts will undoubtedly face legal challenges that must wind through a federal court system now stacked with Trump appointees. And the most ambitious goals to curb climate change and fund clean-energy technologies will need the approval of a deeply divided Congress.”
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) sums up the debate: “Let’s not forget that millions of Americans voted for Biden because he promised climate action. Those voters will be demoralized and disillusioned in future elections if we sacrifice their health, livelihoods, and futures to prop up fossil fuels. Substantively and politically, we cannot afford to be passive in the face of this crisis.
“The climate crisis is one of the biggest emergencies that our country has ever faced, and our time is running out. Americans are counting on Biden to lead accordingly. Let’s act boldly and treat this crisis like the emergency it is.”
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More