Biden Urged to Take 10 Game-Changing Steps in First 10 Days in Office to Address Climate Crisis
By Julia Conley
With Democrats anxious about the probability that President-elect Joe Biden will be forced to grapple with a Republican-led Senate after taking office in January, a coalition of more than a dozen climate action groups are calling on Biden to take every possible step he can to help solve the planetary emergency without the approval of Congress.
Even in the face of a Senate controlled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Republican Party, Biden can and must still be a "Climate President," say the groups, which include the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth.
The organizations originally released the Climate President plan nearly a year ago during the Democratic primary, and are now calling on Biden to take "ten steps in [his] first ten days in office" to help "form the necessary foundation for the country's true transformation to a safer, healthier, and more equitable world for everyone."
"If the world is to have any reasonable chance of staying below 1.5°C and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, the next president of the United States must demonstrate national and global leadership and take immediate and decisive action to launch a rapid and just transition off of fossil fuels economy-wide," reads the website set up by the coalition, ClimatePresident.org. "Recognizing the steps that the next president can take without any additional action from Congress is critical because these are the 'no excuses' actions that can be taken immediately to set the nation on a course to zero emissions."
Proponents of the Climate President action plan on social media emphasized that Biden is capable of taking major "game-changing" steps to begin mitigating the planetary emergency."
"Let him know you expect no less," tweeted author and activist Naomi Klein.
Don't let anyone tell you that Biden's hands are tied on climate action without the Senate. Here is a list of game-… https://t.co/LyOyaXD6vl— Naomi Klein (@Naomi Klein)1604941732.0
What can a new #ClimatePresident Biden do without Congress to tackle the climate emergency? He can move progress… https://t.co/LOjvxRXqlp— Jean Su (@Jean Su)1604944626.0
The organizations list 10 action items which would help the Biden White House single-handedly put the U.S. on the path to meaningfully fighting the climate crisis:
- Declare a national climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act, which would "unlock specific statutory powers to help accomplish the necessary response." Biden would be able to direct federal agencies to reverse all of President Donald Trump's regulatory rollbacks.
- Keep fossil fuels in the ground, halting fossil fuel permits and lease sales, banning fracking on federal lands, and issuing stringent pollution rules for oil and gas companies.
- Stop fossil fuel exports and infrastructure approvals through executive orders.
- Shift financial flows from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources through an executive order that would promote new investments and phase out old ones.
- Using the Clean Air Act, set a science-based national pollution cap.
- Power the electricity sector with 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030. Pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, Biden could direct the secretary of defense to redirect a portion of military spending to carry out a rapid construction program of renewable energy projects to meet a significant portion of the nation's power needs. The president-elect could also provide loan guarantees to clean energy developers and utilities that use renewable energy.
- Issue an executive order creating an inter-agency just transition task force to implement a national program guaranteeing support for communities and workers affected by the halting of fossil fuel extraction.
- Direct federal agencies assess and mitigate environmental harms that disproportionately impact Indigenous, Black, brown, and low-income communities.
- Investigate and prosecute fossil fuel polluters and commit to vetoing all legislation that grants legal immunity to big polluters.
- Rejoin the Paris climate agreement and increase the United States' emissions reduction commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by at least 70% by 2030 and reduce them to near zero by 2040.
The president-elect has said he plans to immediately reenter the Paris agreement upon taking office. After the Democratic presidential primary, his campaign team worked closely with advisers from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's and Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) campaigns to hammer out a plan which called for the elimination of carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2035 and pledged $2 trillion over four years to increase and incentivize the use of renewables to power cars, homes, and businesses. Biden's original climate plan during the primary had pledged $1.7 trillion and aimed to make the U.S. carbon neutral by 2050.
"The first steps that would put us clearly on a path to a regenerative and inclusive society can be launched immediately by the next president," said the Climate President coalition. "These ten actions form the necessary foundation for the country's true transformation to a safer, healthier, and more equitable world for everyone."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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