Biden-Harris ticket's climate agenda shifts focus as the West Coast burns

Updated: Oct 8

On September 8, the world received news that yet another wildfire had started in California. While fires are not uncommon during this time of year, no one could have predicted the devastation that was to follow. This was the start of the inferno currently consuming the Western Coast of the United States of America.


At a press conference, President Trump stated, “It will start getting cooler. Just watch. I don't think science knows, actually." On the contrary, science has proven time and time again that these wildfires are the cause of climate change as global warming increasingly leads to droughts and erratic weather patterns. But since the President has made his view on this catastrophe clear, it is important to know his competitor’s stance on climate change.



Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

Although Joe Biden may not be climate change’s best friend, he's not its worst nemesis either. In March of 2015, he said,

"It's almost like denying gravity now.... The willing suspension of disbelief can only be sustained for so long."

Joe Biden has recently shifted his campaign's focus to climate change, an unprecedented move by a candidate. This action comes as wildfires rage in the West and a hurricane recently ravaged the Gulf. Biden has argued that "President Trump's inaction and dismissal of science has left Americans vulnerable to climate catastrophe, just as it heightened risks from the coronavirus pandemic,” Marianne Lavelle writes. Biden has repeatedly attacked Trump’s climate stance, calling him a “climate arsonist” while promising his policies would focus on making America reach a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. 


Kamala Harris, Biden’s partner on the ticket, has also had a long history of climate policy. The Greenpeace climate score rates her at 1.5 points higher than Joe Biden — at 77.0% compared to Biden’s 75.5% —  and she has introduced or co-sponsored nine environmental and climate change legislative actions. In short, Harris balances out the ticket and may help unify the moderate and liberal halves of the Democratic party so that something can get done about climate change.


However, Biden does not support the Green New Deal, as stated in the first presidential debate, but rather, the “Biden Plan.” This plan will aim to achieve many things, including, but not limited to: 

  • A 100% clean energy economy no later than 2050 by investing in innovation strategies and “incentivizing the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change”;

  • The elimination of carbon emissions by 2035 from the nation's natural gas and coal power plants, which currently provide nearly two-thirds of U.S. electricity;

  • Region-by-region infrastructure investments to adapt to the already-existing effects of climate change, with scientific partnerships with universities and national labs to gain “local access to the most relevant science, data, information, tools, and training”;

  • Rallying other nations to combat climate change by strengthening the Paris Climate Agreement to ensure transparency and enforceability using the United States’ leverage, thereby integrating climate change into our foreign policy, national security, and international trade strategies;

  • And assisting communities vulnerable to mega-polluters and those disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change by limiting the power of mega-polluters, including fossil fuel companies, thereby decreasing our reliance on these fuels whilst increasing the health and safety of many communities.


Biden also plans on rolling back Trump’s tax cuts that give money to corporations at the expense of the environment and American jobs, and then he will increase taxes on the wealthy. He plans to use these funds to pay for his environmental investment proposal, which is to “make a federal investment of $1.7 trillion over the next ten years, leveraging the additional private sector and state and local investments to total to more than $5 trillion.” However, the federal investment is closer to $2 trillion, and the total adding up to $5 trillion is an optimistic assessment, considering the private sector and state/local governments will be more focused on recovering from the economic depression resulting from the pandemic than on having to spend money on climate change.


Our Take

Biden’s Plan is much more direct than the wide-reaching Green New Deal, focusing on purely the environment, while the Green New Deal reaches into broader social issues. Therefore, the problem with the Green New Deal was getting bipartisan support. Conservative voters tend to look at more tangible impacts, such as the economy, the healthcare system, and law and order. The Green New Deal’s three-pronged approach was viewed by conservatives as too liberal, as it planned to reinvent many aspects of the economy, healthcare, and social justice. Biden referred to the Green New Deal as “a crucial framework” for his own plan, though the Biden plan’s $2 trillion price tag is significantly lower than the Green New Deal’s cost. This appeal to the middle limits alienation and has a greater chance of passing in Congress.


Although it may seem as if there’s no good choice right now, intent is what matters. Biden has the intention of helping to solve climate change, while Trump is a fervent denier of climate science. Therefore, we have come to the same conclusion once again: Former Vice President Joe Biden is an infinitely better candidate than President Donald Trump for the November 3rd election.


Read More Analysis: Biden vs. Trump: Climate Review November 2020



Sources

“Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice: Joe Biden.” Joe Biden for President: Official Campaign Website, Accessed October 2, 2020. https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/.


“Northern California Wildfires: Where To Find Updates On Air Quality, Evacuations, And Official Information.” CapRadio, September 9, 2020. https://www.capradio.org/articles/2020/09/20/latest-updates-on-northern-california-wildfires/.


Lavelle, Marianne. “Biden Puts Climate Change at Center of Presidential Campaign, Calling Trump a 'Climate Arsonist'.” InsideClimate News, September 15, 2020. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/14092020/joe-biden-climate-change-wildfires-donald-trump-2020-election


“US West Coast Fires: I Don't Think Science Knows about Climate, Says Trump.” BBC News. BBC, September 15, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54144651.


Grandoni, Dino. “Analysis | The Energy 202: Kamala Harris Brings Record on Climate Change and Environmental Justice to Biden Ticket.” The Washington Post. WP Company, August 12, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/08/12/energy-202-kamala-harris-brings-record-climate-change-environmental-justice-biden-ticket/.


Butterworth, Vanessa. “Kamala Harris and the Climate: Everything You Need to Know for November.” Greenpeace USA, August 13, 2020. https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/kamala-harris-and-the-climate-everything-thing-you-need-to-know-for-november/.


Berardelli, Jeff. “How Joe Biden's Climate Plan Compares to the Green New Deal.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, October 5, 2020. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/green-new-deal-joe-biden-climate-change-plan/.

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