Zoe Stratos | Staff Columnist
During the 2020 election, President Biden and former President Donald Trump focused their campaigns heavily on how to combat COVID-19 and relief efforts for those affected by it. While COVID-19 has taken a toll on the American spirit, climate change is still an ever growing threat, and the Biden Administration has a lot of work to do to combat it.
Spanning back to the 2016 election, the Trump administration seemingly overhauled the Obama Administration’s steps toward reversing climate change, with a high focus on the oil and coal industries.
Being a businessman, Trump focused much of his campaign on economic prosperity, but with that, climate change initiatives came to a screeching halt. During his four years in office, many things had changed, including the following according to the National Geographic:
In February 2017, the U.S. Senate named Scott Pruitt as the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency — who previously sued the EPA over its regulations and, most notably, the Clean Power Plan. The administration then signed an executive order that began to reverse the Clean Power Plan.
Most notably in June 2017, Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, a pact of 194 countries that promised to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Other setbacks included Trump’s proposal to roll back the Endangered Species Act and weaken fuel economy rules in 2018, and two executive orders to allow companies to build oil and gas pipelines in 2019.
Upon Biden’s entrance into office, the first week offered new executive orders to combat climate change.
On his official website, Biden outlines the importance of the Green New Deal framework. Similarly to Trump, Biden acknowledges the connection between economy and environment, but looks at it in a different light.
One of the biggest highlights of Biden’s $2 trillion plan is for the U.S. to reach a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050, but achieving this feat is difficult.
Originally, Biden’s climate plan was underwhelming for not only scientists and environmentalists, but for everyday people invested in the fight against climate change. The biggest difference between the two is the cost. The original plan called for an investment of $1.7 trillion over the course of 10 years, while the new plan costs $300 billion more — with a shorter time span.
To acquire the funds necessary to combat climate change, Biden plans to raise the corporate income tax rate, and promises to not raise taxes for low income households.
This is where controversy comes in. Hailed by economists and climate change experts alike, a tax on carbon would be the most efficient way to raise money for the agenda, though most households would not be exempt from it. Though with a carbon tax, it would cut down on after-tax incomes on carbon-based services such as gas.
Moreover, there would be a fee on imports from countries without a carbon tax, which would rally other countries in joining the initiative.
Without a carbon tax, as Biden plans to move forward with, only regulations and executive orders can put a curb on carbon emissions. The issue with regulation is that it can be easily reversed or worked around, as we’ve seen from the last few presidencies.
Essentially, regulation is not optimal in a long term investment like net-zero carbon emissions within the next 20 or so years. Biden won’t be in charge that long.
Though another part of Biden’s plan connects the dots between economy and environment: U.S. infrastructure.
The plan proposes to create millions of union jobs to make transportation of goods and people faster — and less expensive. Part of this will be to transform the energy sources that power public transportation, while also providing public transportation for thousands of Americans across the U.S. by 2030.
“It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Biden said on March 31 at a union training center in Pittsburgh. “It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America.”
Moreover, the infrastructure plan would create up to 20,000 miles of rebuilt roads and eliminate lead pipes from water supplies, all the while creating clean energy and providing jobs for millions of Americans.
Although ambitious, the Biden climate initiative is possible with the right investments and support from the American people.