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What the US election means for the climate

30th Oct 2020
What the US election means for the climate

(Photo credit: skeeze/Pixabay)

The United States Presidential election is happening amid an unprecedented season of natural disasters, from untamed wildfires in California to devastating hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.

Donald Trump and many in his Republican Party have been reluctant to attribute worsening natural disasters to climate change, and his Administration has dismantled environmental laws at every turn. Joe Biden, Presidential candidate for the Democrats, recites more candid rhetoric when talking about environmental issues, admitting that worse natural disasters are a result of warmer weather, and offering a plan to address climate change if elected.

The November 3 election will determine whether the Government of the world’s largest per capita polluter acts on climate or continues to let private companies determine what good stewardship looks like.

The New York Times published a list of 100 environmental rules that the Trump Administration is reversing, 68 that were completed, and 32 in progress as of July of this year. Some rollbacks include: cancelling a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions, lifting the ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and revoking a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams.

While Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement garnered international attention, the domestic rollbacks could do far greater damage, though many are facing legal scrutiny. Appointments to top agencies have exposed the Trump Administration’s “deregulatory agenda.”

While Donald Trump Administration officials aren’t known for lasting long in their roles — the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, resigned over ethics issues and the current leader of the Interior Department, David Burnhardt, faces conflicts of interest allegations — those that head environmental agencies often hold views starkly antithetical to the missions of those agencies.

One of the greatest concerns that United States scientists now face is a lack of transparent and reliable data. Many Government websites have been commanded to remove references to climate change. Needless to say, if the Republicans continue to control the White House for another 4 years, there may be no such thing as environmental regulation in the United States.

Former Vice President, Joe Biden’s environmental record, though more impressive than President Trump’s, may be overblown. GQ reported that Biden claimed to have a role in framing the Paris Climate Agreement but some question the extent of his involvement.

He criticized Donald Trump for leaving the Paris Agreement, citing it as another example of his poor foreign policy record, and vowed to rejoin the landmark climate treaty. Republicans have tried to scare moderates and swing voters into believing that Biden would implement the Green New Deal, a far-reaching proposal to drastically curb greenhouse gas emissions and address racial and income inequality.

Considered by many as far too extreme in what industries it would curb, Biden has reiterated that his plan does not resemble it. He instead wants to get the United States to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2035 by inserting $400 billion into clean energy innovation and technology.

Biden’s procurement of union endorsements keeps him from stating that he would like to radically alter the United States’s energy landscape by getting rid of all fossil fuels right away. Still, the rise of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has pushed the Democratic Party farther left, so Biden walks a fine line trying to appease more moderate Democrats as well as the more radical “Bernie or Bust” voters.

The 2020 election has the world holding its breath. The rise of Donald Trump and his subsequent victory in 2016 came as a shock — something many people scoffed at as impossible until they heard the results, akin to the Brexit vote. For years, experts have urged national leaders to act swiftly and decisively to avert climate disaster, giving a specific number of years before Earth’s fate would be sealed. Meanwhile, these leaders have enacted proposals here and there and patted themselves on the back for doing so, yet the magnitude of natural disasters has got worse, allergy seasons have got longer and mass migrations of human beings are occurring.

While the Paris Climate Agreement was hailed a success, many nations have not met their commitments. The coronavirus has put a variety of environmental issues on the back burner, especially those related to disposable waste. While the United States election will mean a great deal for climate and environmental regulations for a nation with a major carbon footprint, reversing course to save, not the planet, but our species will take worldwide decisive and swift action.

Greta Thunberg recently endorsed Biden for president, showing that someone with a plan in the right direction, even if it is more incremental than radical, is better than someone trying to dismantle the system altogether.

Sarah Sakeena Marshall,
Grit Daily Staff Writer,
The Muslim News Environmental Columnist

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