US Election 2020: the last chance to stop the climate crisis?

Lilla Marshall on how the outcome of the US election could dictate the fate of the planet

Lilla Marshall
30th October 2020

On 3 November 2020, the United States of America will go to the polls to choose between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. With the climate crisis clock ticking down, and two candidates holding very different views on how to handle it, this could be the most important presidential election in history.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump's presidency has prioritised deregulation, in an attempt to keep businesses happy. Environmental regulations have been a common target of this. One example of is the replacement of the Obama-era 'Clean Power Plan' with significantly weaker legislation, which reduced greenhouse gas emissions by just 1% more than if no regulations were in place at all.

Trump initiated plans to remove the USA from the Paris Climate Agreement

Most famously, Trump started the process to take the USA out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which would make the USA the only country outside of the arrangement. The process of exiting is not official until 4 November, the day after the election.

Trump has also rolled back regulations on coal production, in an attempt to revive the USA's coal industry, which was a campaign promise in 2016. Regulations that required oil companies to reduce methane leaks were also rolled back.

By 2010 Trump was calling global warming a "con"

Donald Trump's personal views on climate change are questionable. In 2009, he signed a letter to Obama praising his efforts at fighting global warming and stated that it was a real issue. Yet by 2010, he was calling global warming a "con" and by 2012, saying that it was a "hoax" that was "created by and for the Chinese," although he later claimed this was a joke. One tweet in 2018 read, "Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?". The climate crisis does not appear to be at the top of his agenda.

"A second Trump term is game over for the environment"

Michael Mann, Penn State University

Michael Mann, a professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State and leading climate expert, declared this year, "A second Trump term is game over for the environment - really!"

"Another four years of what we’ve seen under Trump, which is to outsource environmental and energy policy to the polluters and dismantle protections put in place by the previous administration … would make that [limiting warming to below a degree and a half Celsius] essentially impossible."

A spokesperson for the Trump campaign told Vox, "Unlike Joe Biden, who is willing to sacrifice millions of US energy jobs to appease the radical left, President Trump and his administration are promoting both energy independence and environmental health through innovation."

Joe Biden

While Trump believes that the climate crisis is a "hoax", Joe Biden has stated that it is a priority. He has stated, previously, that he will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement on day one of his presidency and has claimed that he will take it even further.

Biden will ensure a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050

The ‘Biden Plan’ states that he will ensure the US achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions by 2050; reinstate the regulations on methane emissions; ensure that all government buildings are 'climate-ready'; reducing carbon emissions from transport and more.

Biden has been criticised by climate activists for his stance on fracking (which is a prominent producer of methane), due to his refusal to back the idea of banning it outright. He has, however, stated that new fracking contracts will be rejected, if he is elected president. His reluctance to commit to a full ban is likely because of Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state, which is the 2nd highest producer of natural gas in the country, behind only Texas.

Biden's international climate plan, if anything, is even more ambitious than his domestic plan

Paul Bledsoe

Paul Bledsoe, former communications director of the White House Climate Change Task Force under Bill Clinton, said, "Joe Biden is proposing that the US adopt climate change tariffs on nations who do not reduce their emissions. Biden's international climate plan, if anything, is even more ambitious than his domestic plan. So the contrast [between him and Trump] could not be starker."

Does it even matter?

We've already passed many crucial tipping points in fighting the climate crisis, where it is now impossible to turn back. Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases immediately, the planet would continue to warm for many more decades. It is not too late, however, to do something.

By mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions, we can prolong the effects of climate change - giving us more time to prepare and adapt for disaster.

Featured Image: Pixabay

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