Biden’s Reported ‘Middle Ground’ Climate Policy Doesn’t Go Far Enough, Advocates Say
Former Vice President Joe Biden has not released a detailed climate policy since he entered the Democratic presidential primary race a little more than two weeks ago. But two sources close to his campaign told Reuters Friday that he is crafting a policy that would serve as a "middle ground" between environmental advocates and blue-collar workers who voted for President Donald Trump.
That policy would include:
- Re-entering the Paris agreement.
- Preserving Obama-era emission and fuel efficiency regulations that the Trump administration is attempting to roll back.
- Supporting nuclear energy and fossil-fuel options like natural gas and carbon capture technology.
Scientists, environmental advocates and fellow primary contenders immediately criticized the plan as out of step with the most recent science on climate change, such as last October's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that says global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by nearly half by 2030 years to avoid more than 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels.
"Biden calls on physics, chemistry to meet him halfway," 350.org Founder Bill McKibben responded in a tweet.
Interesting strategy: Biden calls on physics, chemistry to meet him halfway. Will be curious to see how they respond https://t.co/PzNQA2WFp3— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1557501610.0
Commentators noted that Biden's plan amounted to restoring Obama-era climate policy after attacks by the Trump administration, but that climate science in the years since Obama left office had shown that policy to no longer be enough to meet the threat posed by climate change.
"Reheating the Obama administration's regulations-plus-Paris approach will be totally insufficient," climate scientist and Niskanen Center policy expert Joseph Majkut told The Huffington Post.
More than half of Biden's primary opponents have backed a more ambitious Green New Deal to transition the U.S. from fossil fuels to renewable energy within 10 years while supporting green jobs and promoting equality, Reuters noted. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, all of whom back the Green New Deal, explicitly criticized Biden's reported "middle ground" approach, The Huffington Post reported.
Inslee, who has focused his campaign primarily on fighting climate change, was the first to respond.
"[T]he times and science have changed. We cannot simply go back to the past; we need a bold climate plan for our future," he said, according to Reuters.
Biden campaign spokesperson TJ Ducklo declined to comment to Reuters on the specifics of Biden's forthcoming climate plan, but said the candidate had called climate change an "existential threat."
In a Twitter thread Friday, Biden repeated the claim that climate change was an "existential threat."
"We need policies that reflect this urgency. I'll have more specifics on how America can lead on climate in the coming weeks," he said.
We need policies that reflect this urgency. I'll have more specifics on how America can lead on climate in the coming weeks.— Joe Biden (@Joe Biden)1557512466.0
One of the sources Reuters drew on for its report, Heather Zichal, who advised Obama on climate and is now advising Biden, said the middle-of-the-road approach was based on her experience with the Obama administration.
"I respect where they (activist groups) are coming from," Zichal told Reuters. "What we learned from the Obama administration is unless we find middle ground on these issues, we risk not having any policies."
However, in a tweet Friday Zichal said that "Reuters got it wrong."
I expect as president @JoeBiden would enact a bold policy to tackle climate change in a meaningful and lasting way," she wrote.
I expect as president @JoeBiden would enact a bold policy to tackle climate change in a meaningful and lasting way.… https://t.co/60qEJFdeL2— Heather Renee Zichal (@Heather Renee Zichal)1557507655.0
McKibben, in an op-ed for The Guardian, cast doubt on Zichal's follow-up statement and her suitability as a climate adviser, saying that she had headed an inter-agency group during the Obama administration that focused on promoting domestic natural gas development. After leaving the administration in 2013, she joined the board of fracked gas exporter Cheniere Energy.
McKibben called on Biden to change course.
"If he's going to mount a serious challenge to Trump, he's going to need the huge number of Americans for whom climate change has become the issue. On the biggest issue our civilization's ever faced, we need him thinking like it's 2030, not 2010," he wrote.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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