Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Biden must act on our climate change challenge

Given the probabilistic place the nation is at regarding the election, I’ve avoided speculating about what candidates will actually do given a win. Now, however, things are beginng to clarify.

A FiveThirtyEight email
Morning Distribution Monday, September 28, 2020
Your daily briefing from FiveThirtyEight
Biden is favored 78 to 22.

Good odds, those.

So let’s take a look at what Biden/Harris must do about climate change.

Biden Can Rise to the Challenge of Our Climate Emergency This year’s devastating wildfires illustrate how high the costs of failing to deal with climate change will be. By Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker Science Writer.

It is no exaggeration to say that what the next President does—or doesn’t do—on climate change will affect the world for millennia to come. Joe Biden has said that, on Day One of his Administration, he will rejoin the Paris climate accord. That’s an important first step. It would signal that the United States intends to become, once again, a responsible member of the global community. At the same time, it would commit the White House to delivering a plan to substantially reduce America’s emissions. (Donald Trump shredded the plan that the Obama Administration submitted in the lead-up to Paris, in 2015.)

The new Administration should immediately issue an executive order rescinding a stack of Trump’s executive orders. These include one that directed federal agencies to review any rules that “potentially burden” oil, natural-gas, and coal companies, and another that opened millions of acres of U.S. waters to potential oil and gas drilling. (A few weeks ago, in a naked bid for votes, the President declared a moratorium on drilling off the coast of three Republican-led states: Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.) Another executive order should direct the Secretary of the Interior to halt the sale of leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands.

A Biden Administration should also move to restore key Obama-era regulations that the Trump Administration has been scrapping. Among other things, these regulations were aimed at limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, cars and light trucks, and leaky oil and gas wells. The process of rewriting the regulations, as the Times noted recently, will “take patience and discipline.” That’s in part because, even as the Trump Administration was gutting the rules, it was gutting the agencies responsible for formulating them. The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg may make the task even more difficult, as a more right-leaning Supreme Court could overturn the key decision, Massachusetts v. E.P.A., from 2007, on which the regulations are based.

In July, Biden offered a plan for tackling climate change and promoting environmental justice. As many commentators pointed out at the time, the plan was a good deal more aggressive than the one he offered during the primary campaign, and credit for this goes to the young activists who pushed him to be bolder. (The Washington Post called it the “most ambitious blueprint released by a major party nominee.”) Several of its key elements can be accomplished by executive action. These include: directing agencies to promote clean energy through their purchases of vehicles and equipment; establishing more rigorous efficiency standards for household appliances; creating a new Environmental and Climate Justice Division in the Justice Department; and convening a climate summit of world leaders. Biden should take all these steps expeditiously.

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