Climate change policies in a post-Trump era

Despite the prolonged transition to the White House for President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President Kamala Harris, the two remain set on advancing their political agenda to usher in a new American age. Biden made numerous promises on the campaign trail that set his mission apart from then-President Donald Trump’s, with particular disparity between the two candidates surfacing in their proposed environmental policies.

The Biden administration seeks to undo the stagnation associated with climate action through a series of policies, which started on inauguration day, January 20, 2021. Major components of Biden’s environmental plan include: rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, reinstating dozens of environmental regulations rolled back by Trump, making America carbon-neutral by 2050, and driving down emissions by investing $1.7 trillion over ten years.

Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement: On the first day of his presidency, Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, an international treaty to limit global warming to a temperature well below 2°C. With 196 countries already participating, rejoining the agreement was a key step in re-establishing the United States as a country with environmental priorities.

Reversing Trump’s environmental rollbacks: During his four years in office, Trump repealed 84 environmental policies through executive orders, with 20 still in progress. The New York Times analyzed Trump’s rollbacks, stating that they have “weakened Obama-era limits” on harmful carbon dioxide and mercury emissions, as well as protection for more than half of America’s wetlands. Biden aims to bring back these repealed environmental policies to restore America’s wildlife habitats, reduce water pollution, promote better air quality, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

Becoming carbon net-zero by 2050: Biden intends to make America carbon-neutral by 2050, meaning that the country will balance greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing the equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere. The administration plans to achieve this ambitious goal by investing in clean, renewable power (such as windmills, solar panels, etc.) and by offsetting the remaining carbon emissions with ecological initiatives such as planting trees.

Investing $1.7T to drive down emissions: Biden also aims to invest $1.7 trillion over the next ten years to combat the disastrous effects of climate change. The money will fuel initiatives like converting buildings to make them more energy-efficient, as well as supporting the advancement of electric vehicle technology. This “Clean Energy Revolution,” he asserts, will have the added benefit of providing millions of clean-energy jobs for workers throughout America.

More liberal Democrats, such as New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, urge the new administration to take stronger legislative action against climate change. They back a bill called the Green New Deal, whose main purpose is to reduce American carbon emissions to net-zero and convert the country’s power to 100% renewable, carbon-free energy by 2030, 20 years ahead of Biden’s 2050 goal. The plan requires more federal effort to implement, as nationwide efforts to reduce the devastating effects of climate change are large-scale, expensive, and labor-intensive. Biden, therefore, has decided to not support the Green New Deal (much to the displeasure of climate activists) and instead plans to take a more moderate approach to address climate change.

Biden’s proposed policies have generated much opposition from conservative individuals (climate change is an issue that is strictly divided along partisan lines), who contest the efficacy of the plan and, in some cases, even question the threat of climate change itself. With Trump constantly touting that climate change is a “hoax” and distracting the media with other unfounded claims, it is no wonder that climate change has taken the backseat in American legislation, news coverage, and minds.

Other American politicians, encouraged by Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the massive threat that climate change presents to the planet, have brought forth their own (wrong and unfounded) claims regarding the issue. Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, like Trump, has parroted that climate change is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Numerous other Republican senators, such as Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have also expressed their belief that Earth’s current warming period is only due to natural warming cycles, not caused by humans. While it is true that the Earth has natural periods of warming and cooling, hundreds of thousands of scientific studies from the world’s leading climate experts have concluded that the global temperature of the current warming period has greatly exceeded that of the past.

If global warming is a “hoax” as Trump and many other Republicans so boldly claim, why would 196 smart, powerful nations take part in the Paris Climate Agreement? Countries do not join treaties left and right; careful consideration from the highest authorities is put in to decide which accords to join. At this point, denying that climate change is a real, imminent global threat is, frankly, naive. Politicians’ unwillingness to accept the threat that climate change poses to humankind reflects our society’s growing culture of denying scientifically proven facts for personal and political benefit.

Despite these obstacles, I remain confident that the Biden administration will implement many of the environmental policies that they proposed on the campaign trail. Biden has already made considerable progress by rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, and I hope to see similar environmental policies approved over the course of his presidency. Under this new administration, I am optimistic that the American people will choose facts over fiction, unity over division, and action over passivity regarding the global climate emergency.

Freshman Hazel Thekkekara is a Bi-Line news reporter and a member of the Westminster Eco Club.