One of the few things upon which both Democrats and Republicans will agree today is that we as a nation are divided. Two tumultuous debates and dueling town halls over the past few weeks have emphasized stark policy differences between Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and Republican candidates Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Nowhere is the contrast more evident than in their positions on energy and environmental policy.
President Trump’s pro-oil agenda
President Trump has taken markedly deregulatory and pro-fossil fuel stances on energy issues. His campaign website does not mention renewable energy or climate change, instead highlighting his commitment to “unleash oil and gas production in the U.S.”. Some of his achievements in attaining this goal include approving the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and expanding offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. While industry leaders have applauded these moves, environmentalists believe that they reinforce our dependence on fossil fuels, which are the primary cause of climate change.
Trump has also worked to roll back environmental protections, taking drastic measures including pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, rescinding the Clean Power Plan, and undoing nearly 100 other regulations established under President Obama. He has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” and believes that the role of the EPA should be limited to ensuring clean air and drinking water.
Joe Biden’s bold environmental plans
On the other side of the aisle, Joe Biden is a firm believer that the federal government needs to take a more active role in protecting the environment, shifting our energy system towards renewable energy, and combating climate change. He has a history of supporting environmental protections, especially during his time as Vice President. The Obama administration’s key environmental achievements include signing onto the Paris Climate Agreement and establishing the Clean Power Plan, both of which Joe Biden plans to restore.
The former Vice President’s platform includes a range of other bold proposals that have earned praise from progressive Democrats. For instance, he targets a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050. Biden’s Build Back Better plan is a $2 trillion, all-encompassing proposal that aims to create a cleaner, fairer, and stronger economy, with clean energy infrastructure front and center.
Finally, Biden places a heavy emphasis on environmental justice. In protecting clean air and water, he plans to focus on communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation and pollution, such as Flint, Michigan. The Democrat also highlights the need to offer health and social security benefits to workers who lose their jobs in the transition away from fossil fuels — a demographic that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
There are many clear differences between the two candidates this election cycle — but what does it all mean? Given that climate scientists give us anywhere from seven to 12 years to drastically change our behavior to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, the winner of the 2020 election will shape the state of the environment for decades to come.
The United States is the second-biggest emitter of CO2 globally and the fourth-biggest emitter per capita. Already, we are feeling the effects of a changing climate, with a record-breaking hurricane season, record-breaking wildfires on the West Coast, and record-breaking global temperatures over the past five years. There is no doubt about it: the climate is changing.
It comes down to a question of priorities. If your only priority is economic growth today, it is not clear who you should vote for in this election. Donald Trump’s deregulatory, pro-business agenda has boosted the stock market, but his bungled response to the pandemic caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs. Joe Biden might temporarily slow economic growth as the nation works to regain control of the public health crisis, with the hope of stronger, more resilient and equitable growth after a few months.
On the other hand, if you prioritize fighting climate change and building a sustainable future, there is no doubt that Joe Biden is the right choice. For the first time in its 175-year history, Scientific American endorsed a political candidate, emphasizing Biden’s science-based approach to environmental problems in comparison to Trump’s dismissal of facts.
Joe Biden’s and Donald Trump’s positions on energy and the environment could hardly be much more different. Backed by an army of oil lobbyists and donors, the Republican will only do more harm to our climate. Supported by scores of young people and activists, the Democrat has made saving the environment a core priority. If you care about the future, vote for Joe Biden. Our planet cannot afford four more years of climate denialism.