It was nice to see an American president giving a speech at the United Nations who believes that climate change is real. When it seems that the world is on fire, underwater, or melting under record hot temperatures seemingly daily, it’s essential we have a leader who understands that we’re running out of time to save the planet.
That’s quite the contrast from one who believes that windmills cause cancer or that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Yes, we’ve come a long way since President Crazypants was running things.
And President Biden certainly has some ambitious goals, such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030, a plan that doubles his then-boss Barack Obama’s pledge under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. He also has pledged to decarbonize the country’s energy sector by 2030 and put the country on a path to net-zero emissions by midcentury.
In addition, Biden also committed to double the funds per year to help developing nations deal with climate change to $11.4 billion. The goal for the wealthiest countries for these funds is $100 billion a year, but it’s expected to fall short even with the additional funding from the U.S. However, the extra funds from America would undoubtedly help to close the gap.
So yes, Biden wants to do a lot on climate change. Surely he’d like to do even more. Unfortunately, in Congress, we’ve got some folks who don’t give a damn. More to the point, we have one political party, the GOP, who continues to deny the science surrounding climate change, and a few others from Biden’s party who seem beholden to fossil fuel companies (Joe Manchin, are you listening?).
It’s this dichotomy that threatens our current president from achieving the goals he’s proposed and, quite frankly, threatens the legacy of his entire presidency. How in the world will we ever turn the tide in our fight against this existential threat with the kind of political headwinds that now exist?
Once again, thanks mainly to many neanderthal Republican elected officials, we find ourselves behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to moving forward on significant climate legislation. Even a conservative like U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a big proponent of urgent action to combat global warming, which tells you much about the state of what conservative means over here, as opposed to over there. Johnson would be clearly out of step and banished to the wilderness were he a Republican politician in America.
Ironically, the GOP’s stance on climate change is not even in lock-step with most of their constituents. A poll released not long before the 2020 election by the Conservation Coalition found that Republicans between the ages of 18 and 54 said that climate change is essential to their vote. In addition, it also found that more than three-quarters of all GOP voters favor the government taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet, Republicans still do not want to do the right thing. The fact their fearless leader, the former 45th president, torched our leadership in the world by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords and signed one executive order after another, reversing most of Obama’s aggressive climate actions, speaks volumes. You didn’t hear a peep from most of them about any of Trump’s blatant disregard for environmental justice.
How wonderful would it be if we had both parties working together in concert, accepting the science and data as fact, and moving legislation through for Biden to sign? Legislation that would make a significant dent in carbon emissions, leading the world as most countries wish we would?
It all seems nothing but a pipe dream, unfortunately. In the current political environment, the GOP has no intention of doing anything to help Joe Biden. If he declared it national puppy dog day, they’d call him a socialist tyrant. The quest for a return to power is what drives them on nearly every issue. Even if some of them believe we need to do more on climate change, denying Biden any success outweighs everything else.
It makes a person feel downright envious of other countries these days. Oh sure, they all have their problems. Nothing is perfect in any nation on earth. But on the one issue that matters most, the one that threatens the planet’s very existence, they get it. The GOP, however, does not.
Maybe the only way it ever changes is when their voters start turning on them in more significant numbers. While polls say they’re worried about the climate, GOP constituents aren’t making it an important enough issue to vote them out. It appears that hatred of all things Democratic overshadows everything.
Yes, the recent Infrastructure bill did pass the Senate with bipartisan support for a change. You have to question why Senator Mitch McConnell and 17 Republicans supported it. I’d love to think it’s because he thought it was good for America. My best guess, though, is that he’s banking on Democrats screwing the whole thing up. We shall see.
But the companion Build Back Better bill, the so-called “human infrastructure” legislation, faces an uncertain future.
According to the White House, that’s the bill that also massively addresses climate change and will create good-paying union jobs, establish an energy efficiency and clean energy standard, expand and extend clean energy and electric vehicle tax credits, and enlist a new Civilian Climate Corps. Unfortunately, Republicans are against all of it, and it appears that Joe Manchin isn’t poised to support it either, at least at the current cost of $3.5 trillion. Senator Kyrsten Sinema is also balking at that figure.
Thus, Joe Biden has a tough time ahead of him to achieve the goals he proposed at the United Nations. He’s got a science-denying party to deal with and a few recalcitrant Democrats as well. He’ll need all of his 50 plus years in public life in politics to get it done.
I wish I were more optimistic.