As promised, President Joe Biden has helped the U.S. rejoin the Paris climate accord after Donald Trump’s reign of eco-terror. As of last Friday, it’s official. But now comes the hard part: getting the U.S. to set and meet a national target for cutting fossil fuel emissions.
Although the U.S. president is also busy with COVID-19 deaths surpassing 500,000, the climate just can’t wait. As Biden said to the Munich security conference, “We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change. This is a global existential crisis, and all of us will suffer if we fail.”
Biden’s challenge is to set a realistic target while balancing tricky financial and political realities in a country where many citizens deny the climate is even changing. His administration wants to settle on a U.S. emissions goal by April, in time for the Earth Day summit Biden is hosting. Climate leaders are hoping that a strong U.S. plan will serve as a good role model for other countries figuring out how to cut their emissions.
Many Republican leaders are skeptical. “Returning to the Paris climate agreement will raise Americans’ energy costs and won’t solve climate change,” tweeted Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the Senate energy panel’s top Republican. “The Biden administration will set unworkable targets for the United States while China and Russia can continue with business as usual.”
Paris accord leaders want to keep global warming from reaching 3.6°F (2°C) higher than pre-industrial times. Already the world is up 2.2°F (1.2°C), leaving us very little wiggle room.
Thanks to Trump’s stance on the environment, the U.S. was officially out of the Paris Agreement for 107 days. Some environmental leaders worried that when a Trump-led U.S. abandoned the accord, other countries would follow. Fortunately, none did. Now, Biden has the challenge of reversing Trump’s four years of climate inaction. The world awaits the nation’s new emission-cutting plan.
Image via H. Hach