Foreign Policy
• Published
June 21, 2021

Climate Change: How 2020 Candidates Stack Up

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How do the 2020 Candidates Stack up on Climate Change?

Submitted by David Hale-Mowry

In 2020 we’ve had an impeachment trial, a global pandemic, a reckoning on race, and possibly the most consequential election of the 21st century coming up this November.  With all those things in the spotlight, there has been one issue that may affect our future the most but is being talked about the least.  The ongoing climate crisis is something that is currently affecting us and will continue to affect future generations.  Leading up to the Election, the spotlight should be on both the present and future, this article will examine the significance of the issue as well as how the candidates stack up on the issue.

The Climate Change Performance Index took 61 of the top countries in the world and ranked them by the country’s performance in 14 indicators amongst 4 categories including GHG Emissions, Energy Use, Renewable Energy, and Climate Policy.  Out of those 61 countries involved, the United States finished dead last in 2020.  Countries like China, Saudi Arabia, and the European Union as a whole finished well ahead of us.  This is a striking indictment of our country’s lack of leadership, genuine care for the topic, and isolationism from a world effort to combat climate change.  

In 2016 the Climate Change Performance Index ranked the United States 34th out of 61 countries, it had improved from the previous year where it ranked 44th out of 61.  By 2017 it had gone back down to 43rd and by 2018 it had gone all the way down to 56th on the list.  The reason this happened was because of the Trump Administration’s disastrous environmental policies ranging from his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords in 2017, to the elimination of almost all Obama-era environmental regulations.  One notable Obama-era regulation that was rolled back was the “Clean Power Plan” that was aimed at cutting carbon emissions by 32% by 2030.  Another one was the loosening of regulations on toxic air pollution by the Trump EPA, which obviously was taken advantage of by corporations who are solely profit driven.  To be fair, we should’ve expected this since in 2012 Trump said via Twitter, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”.  Nonetheless, the blame game does absolutely nothing to solve the crisis on our hands.

To focus on the future, it is important for voters to research the climate policies of both candidates.  To look at Donald Trump’s policies on the climate, both his record for the last 3.5 years and his 2020 campaign promises must be looked at.  Like mentioned earlier, the Trump Administration has spent the last 3.5 years scrapping the Obama-era regulations that helped the US become one of the most successful major countries climate-wise.  The President’s scorched earth policy for the climate has proved to be successful for major corporations and coal and gas jobs.  That was one of Trump’s main campaign promises and he pulled through on it, his supporters may be satisfied with it but they need to think about whether they believe the low paying coal jobs are worth the costly air pollution that’s one of the contributing causes to our deteriorating environment.  The Trump Campaign currently does not have any 2020 policies listed on their website for the climate.  It seems that Trump’s goal is to continue with the scrapping of environmental regulations.  One of the only pro-environment plans that the Trump Administration has announced is the advancing of Hydropower use.  The plan to advance and expand the use of Hydropower is certainly a positive idea but seems to be a shiny distraction from the real impact the Administration’s policies have had.  One of the main reasons the Administration has pushed the use of Hydropower is because it has very little impacts on the economy.  Ultimately that’s what drives their Environmental policies, whether it impacts his fossil-fuel-working supporters, the economy, or the profit of corporations.  The point needs to be made that saving the already dwindling fossil fuel jobs is not worth the environmental harm that will be done if those jobs continue and/or expand.  

On the other hand, Joe Biden’s plan provides an optimistic outlook on our country’s economy and infrastructure, both of which are centralized around clean energy.  Biden has made it clear that he believes the threat of climate change is not something that should be ignored and is not something that deserves desultory actions.  He has recently endorsed the Green New Deal, a proposed piece of legislation that addresses climate change and economic inequality. Although the Green New Deal is a progressive proposal, it is a proposal that is absolutely necessary for the country to move forward with a clean environment.  Biden’s plan will ensure the US achieves a 100% clean energy economy with net-zero emissions by no later than the year 2050.  Biden says he will take immediate action by signing a number of Executive Orders on his first day in the Presidency with, “unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama-Biden Administration platform and put us on the right track”.  He also plans to demand Congress to pass legislation with enforcement mechanisms for milestone targets that will occur by the end of his first term in 2025.  Another part of Biden’s plan includes a modernized infrastructure that would benefit middle class working Americans the most.  Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump want a revitalized infrastructure, the difference is Biden believes that a modernized infrastructure goes hand in hand with a clean energy economy featuring the millions of new clean energy jobs that were formerly coal and natural gas jobs.  A common misconception about progressive climate reforms is that it will negatively impact working class people the most, that is why Biden has made it a primary goal of his to have the climate plan centralized around uplifting middle class Americans.

Each voter may reach their own conclusion on the topic but it’s important to remember that if we want to continue to have debate and see the results of economic and societal reforms, there first needs to be a country and world for that to happen.  Make no mistake, Climate change is the number one issue in this country moving forward.  If we want our future generations to experience the wonders of the environment, then we need to make sure that opportunity is present.  The solution to the climate crisis lies in meaningful discourse with both the rest of the world and our own citizens.  This issue affects all of us, we cannot give in to the selfishness and isolationism that Donald Trump has pushed when it comes to the Environment.  A unified effort along with a focused and ambitious plan will put our country and planet on the right track.


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