Biden and the local weather

Actual change or greenwashed half-measures?

After 4 years of rabid local weather denialism underneath former president Donald Trump[1], newly elected Joe Biden is promising to revive America’s place within the world struggle in opposition to local weather change.

Aside from re-joining the Paris Local weather Accord[2], his platform features a $2 trillion ‘inexperienced financial stimulus’, net-zero emissions by 2050 and elevated authorized actions in opposition to environmental polluters[3].

To climate-conscious Individuals, Biden’s proposals symbolize a much-needed breath of recent air following the environmental misdoings of the previous administration[4].

And but, whereas this can be a step in the correct path, there are a number of causes to maintain our optimism in examine.

Political Gridlock

Biden’s extra bold local weather proposals hinge, above all, on securing legislative energy. Sadly, whereas Democrats have maintained a slim majority within the Home of Representatives, the elusive “blue wave” has didn’t materialize[5]. That’s, management over the senate stays contested with Republicans in a slight lead within the decisive Georgia Senate runoff, in accordance with newest polls[6].

Therefore, whatever the closing seat depend, Biden will face a strong Republican opposition in congress with a confirmed track-record of taking pictures down pro-environment payments[7]. Below such circumstances, passing sweeping (and lasting) local weather laws will show remarkably tough.

The elephant within the room: Fossil Gasoline Manufacturing

Aside from such political obstacles, critics have additionally expressed concern over the contents of Biden’s agenda[8].

As an example, latest proof means that merely proscribing fossil gas consumption gained’t avert a local weather disaster — we have to sort out the supply-side as nicely[9]. The latter is particularly problematic for the U.S. which stays the world’s largest producer of each petroleum and pure fuel[10] — with critical opposed results for the surroundings[11].


Sadly, Biden’s platform fails to make any commitments to cease fossil gas extraction. As an alternative, it solely requires the elimination of subsidies and the chopping of methane leaks[12] — dangerously modest measures within the face of an pressing local weather disaster.

This tender stance on fossil fuels can be mirrored within the relaxed response of the oil trade to Biden’s presidency. Rene Santos of S&P World Platts, for instance, was just lately quoted saying that there gained’t be “one thing radical until […] the extra liberal aspect of the Democratic Social gathering will get a whole lot of affect”[13].

Technological panaceas

Somewhat than advocating for the tip of fossil gas extraction, Democrats are pushing nifty technological fixes. Most notably, they’ve pinned their hopes on so-called carbon-capture and storage (CCS)[14] — a expertise that, after greater than 15 years of improvement, has but to ship on its rosy guarantees[15].

Certainly, whereas CCS does work (aside from issues about CO2 leakage[16]), the true problem lies in scaling it up quick sufficient to make a distinction[17]. Sadly, carbon seize crops require giant upfront investments, holding the expertise prohibitively costly (to date)[18].

After all, issues might change if Biden follows by on his plans of “far-reaching investments” within the sector of damaging emission applied sciences. Nevertheless, it stays to be seen whether or not this is able to speed up improvement and implementation quick sufficient to avert ecological calamities.

Within the meantime, it could be higher to keep away from putting our religion in a technological silver bullet.


Biden’s local weather plan represents a tentative first step in the correct path. Nonetheless, there are a number of criticisms to be levelled in opposition to it — from its tender stance on fossil gas manufacturing to an over reliance on as-yet unproven carbon seize (in addition to its aversion in direction of a fracking ban[19] and lack of worldwide plan[20]).

Nonetheless, we are able to safely say that Biden’s local weather agenda is already higher than the wilful science-denial of the Trump administration.

However will or not it’s sufficient?





















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