The looming threat of climate change has been a particularly menacing issue in recent times. Although it is important to be aware of how one’s own actions affect the climate, it is up to our world leaders, to pass legislation in order to aggressively fight against this persistently raging issue, and to ensure a safe and clean world for generations to come.
Unfortunately, the policies of former President Donald Trump exacerbated this crisis, hastening the global warming process and giving the world less time to fight it before its effects become irreversible. On June 1, 2017, Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, which seeks to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and have each country individually do their part in reaching reduced emissions goals. This widely criticized move cut $3 billion worth of climate change research funding from the Green Climate fund, and will make it even harder for the United States to achieve its goals once it rejoins. Additionally, the Trump administration widely supported the use of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources, while also removing carbon emissions limits and encouraging coastal drilling on previously protected lands, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
However, following the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20, there seems to finally be a glimmer of hope in regards to this urgent cause. Within hours of his inauguration, he signed seventeen executive orders, including one to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, getting the United States back on track to tackle climate change. Additionally, he targeted many Trump era policies by revoking the Keystone XL pipeline permit, reintroducing vehicle emission standards, and suspending oil and natural gas leases as well. That was all on day one.
The rest of Biden’s climate plan is just as assertive and ambitious, offering a rejuvenated sense of urgency to a cause that cannot afford to be ignored any longer. One main goal of Biden’s climate plan is to achieve a “100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050.” This will be enforced by both the United States Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, working towards legislation to invest in climate research and implement such innovations as soon as possible. It also entails methane pollution limits on gas and oil operations, the implementation of the Clean Air Act and new fuel economy standards supported by the Department of Transportation, along with the investment in new biofuels and energy sources like wind and water.
Another key point of Biden’s climate plan is to strengthen the economy. Global warming is already leading to increased sea levels, more intense storms, flooding, and wildfires that ruin communities and infrastructure, and thus the economy as well. Biden’s investment in a clean energy economy and revolutionary infrastructure system has the potential to create up to ten million new jobs, not to mention the improved efficiency in the fight against climate change. The Biden administration will also uproot the current rail system, introducing high speed railroads that will unlock new and affordable ways of travel without the need for airplanes and their extreme pollutants. Clean energy is a fast-growing industry that has the potential to do so much, not just for the climate, but for American workers as well in terms of economic diversity and job security.
Finally, it is important to recognize that climate change does not affect every community equally. According to Rachel Morello-Frosch, author of The Climate Gap, “People of color and the poor will be hurt the most [by climate change] – unless elected officials and other policymakers intervene.” Issues such as air pollution disproportionately impact black people, who are three times more likely to die from asthma-related complications than their white counterparts. Additionally, half of all US Latinos live in counties where the air quality fails to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s health standards. Poverty-stricken communities often have a harder time recovering from natural disasters worsened by global warming, since they simply do not have the funds or resources to do so. Cities such as Flint, Michigan, have already experienced these disasters firsthand, making water infrastructure and pollution monitoring systems a top priority for the Biden administration. Biden will also reintroduce federal protections for such communities, working with the Department of Justice to support community-based efforts and to hold polluters accountable, from individuals to corporations.
It is evident that the fight against our changing climate is an uphill battle, and President Biden’s climate plan is just the beginning. It is up to everyone to do their part in order to protect our climate, whether that looks like protesting insufficient pollution laws or simply using a metal straw instead of a plastic one, the small things can and do add up. Biden’s climate plan may be widespread with a huge scope, but we all have the power to start our own fight against climate change right here and right now.