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Our Take: How serious is Biden about climate?

Since ascending to the Presidency with bold and ambitious plans for tackling the climate crisis, Joe Biden has compiled a lengthy and damning list of disappointing decisions accommodating or favoring the fossil fuel industry. These indicate that while Biden “gets” climate, he’s still a politician at heart. He wants to be liked, he wants to not lose any votes, or any big donations, and he only wants to fight battles he’s confident he can win. He has spent most of his career in the Senate, a deliberative body that enshrines the art of compromise, and where decisive action is rarely urgent. His career has ill prepared him to confront the climate crisis as President. That crisis is existential, not just for America but for the human race. It is not amenable to half measures.  The climate crisis is all in, or fold. It is do or die. And we’ve run out of time. Kicking the can down the road to deal with sometime in the future is not an option. Greenhouse gas emissions must be halved this decade or global temperatures will surely rise past the limit climate scientists agree will have catastrophic social, political, and economic consequences. 

Six years ago in Paris, 195 nations committed to work to avoid that fate. Few have made much progress. All the nations meet again in November in Glasgow to redouble their commitments at a time when the climate is clearly deteriorating. That world summit, called COP26, is the world’s last best hope of forestalling the predicted dire consequences. For COP26 to achieve a concensus accord that seriously accelerates the replacement of fossil fuels with carbonless alternatives, the US must demonstrate that it has committed itself to a rapid transition to renewables. Only then will it have the credibility to lead, cajole, hector, and entice other countries to do likewise. A disappointing Glasgow Agreement won’t by itself doom efforts to control climate breakdown, but it would foretell an increasingly desperate future for mankind.  Given Joe Biden’s character, his career before becoming President, and his record since taking office, it is hard to be optimistic. Still, Biden may yet  prove to be an astute enough politician that he can pull off what looks to be an impossible set of challenges. We wish him well, and pray for his success.

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