By: Nora Germain
Climate change is an issue that affects the entire world which is why every nation must be involved in the solutions. Within the United States, it is very clear that we are now in a decidedly different era, at least legislatively, than we were only a few months ago with the previous administration. This has given new opportunity to the United States to lead on climate in a way that it has not done before.
This is because even in the four years of the previous administration, the climate crisis has escalated significantly in terms of hard data, financial repercussions, and sadly, the loss of life due to storms, wildfires, heatwaves and so forth. Returning to the status quo of 2010 or so is not going to be enough now, and a growing majority of global citizens understand this.
Happily, there is good news and progress being made every day not only within the United States government but across the world and I’d like to highlight some of the progress that is already in motion and steps that have already been taken to help end or at least slow this crisis.
On his first day in office, President Biden cancelled the long-debated and fought over Keystone XL pipeline. This pipeline was an extremely controversial project and it had been hotly contested for years and years. The protests that arose from its planning were part of the beginning of a larger climate movement, one that gained huge momentum in the past five or so years in particular, with Fridays for Future and other widespread protests. There are other major pipelines that must be immediately cancelled if the United States hopes to hit its voluntary but extremely urgent Paris Climate Accord goals. Nevertheless, this swift cancellation is a promising step in the right direction.
Speaking of the Paris Climate Accords, President Biden also rejoined that agreement, which is another important but not totally adequate step toward climate justice. The Paris Climate Accords were reached in 2015 and signed in early 2016, so they are already becoming out of date, but they did help over 190 countries come to a consensus on what they could do on a (mostly) voluntary basis.
This agreement, even if targets are achieved, is not enough to keep the planet to a level of habitability that is comfortable or safe for human life, and furthermore, many nations are behind their goals to reach these targets, so there is much to do, particularly in the area of understanding how little time we have left and how much of a crisis this truly is.
Being back in has its merits, though. It shows the rest of the world that the United States is ready and willing to make real innovative efforts and to stop the war against science and expertise. It also shows that the United States is mature enough to acknowledge the scale of its own fault in the matter, and hopefully — to rectify it swiftly in the form of restoration, foreign aid, new technology, and perhaps most importantly, significant legislation.
President Biden has also recently promised to electrify the entire US Government’s fleet of vehicles, which includes over 600,000 in total (it’s more than I expected, too). Many of these vehicles (per ABC News) are used by postal workers and military. It’s estimated that this effort alone will generate more than 1 million new jobs, and furthermore, these vehicles are to be made entirely in the United States. This is a strong first step in demonstrating the potential for job growth and solving climate change to be mutually beneficial tasks.
In global news, scientists across the world have banned together on what is called the “30×30” campaign, which hopes to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. Currently only about 2% of the ocean is “strongly protected” against a variety of destructive human actions. This website does a great job of helping people understand why the oceans need protecting, where it should happen and what the benefits would be. This is yet another example of a mutually beneficial plan to solve climate change, to create economic vitality and to protect jobs and wildlife at the same time.
Related to this effort, about a week into his term, President Biden also suspended any new leases for oil and gas projects on “public lands and waters.” He has also joined in the 30×30 goal and has asked for it to be extended to federal lands as well as waters. President Biden said shortly after signing this executive order that “we are unwavering in our commitment to innovation.”
According to CNBC, drilling on public lands accounts for about 25% of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions, so although this order does not yet seem to affect existing projects, phasing new ones out cannot happen soon enough. Further plans to replace lost jobs and even expand job growth through bold and swift wind and solar development should ease the concerns of oil and gas workers.
Finally, although this hasn’t happened yet, it’s worth recognizing that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for President Biden to declare an official climate emergency in the United States. This would enable the US Government to move even more swiftly on legislation to help us mitigate and solve the climate crisis, but would also mobilize funds to be used toward that end. There is enormous work to do in terms of things like weatherizing homes, repairing and improving existing infrastructure, replacing pipes and so forth. Furthermore there are millions of jobs waiting to be created through the invention and implementation of new technologies, many of which President Biden has already mentioned in his comments following his first round of climate-related executive orders.
We are now both as a nation and a planet in a definitively new place with regard to the climate crisis, and I urge everyone to keep their eyes and ears peeled for more news on this front, as it seems that this new administration is only getting started and initiatives are being announced quite often. Billionaires like Elon Musk and others are now putting their enormous personal fortunes to good use and inspiring people to think big while we still have (a little bit of) time to act.
While these steps are uplifting, more public pressure from all over the world will be needed to make sure that these goals are reached and that urgency is not lost on any world leader. It was said on Twitter that it’s possible climate activists have all but forgotten how to receive good news. There is a lot of it this week, but the wider climate community which is growing every day will continue to fight for the future, which at present time, is not yet totally lost.
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