Voices for Action

Biden, Trump and the Politics of Climate Change

Joe Biden is settling into his role as the Democratic nominee, with endorsements from his chief rival, his former boss, and 80 top climate change experts. Bernie Sanders said he was “very much looking forward to working” with Biden on what they agreed is the “existential threat” of climate change. Barack Obama credited his friend Joe with helping “restore America’s standing and leadership in the world on the other threats of our time, like nuclear proliferation and climate change.” The scientists said, “Biden’s plan to address climate change leads with science and facts and pledges U.S. leadership on climate action.

Yet among some progressive activists, there remains a lingering concern about whether Biden is focused enough on the aggressive steps necessary to stem the climate crisis. And on the other side, there are questions about whether we should be talking about climate solutions at all, when our nation is dealing with a more immediate crisis, the coronavirus pandemic.

But President Trump hasn’t stopped trying to undermine climate progress, so we can’t stop working on solutions. With the stakes so high, even a global pandemic couldn’t delay Earth Day climate action (even if it pushed us indoors for virtual activism). As Obama said in his endorsement speech, Trump and his enablers have “given polluters unlimited power to poison our air and our water — and denied the science of climate change, just as they denied the science of pandemics.”

In other words, this election offers the same stark choice when it comes to climate threats and pathogens – the choice between science-based policymaking and ignoring science in favor of uninformed gut instinct. And we’ve seen what the latter brings.

The Trump administration’s decision to elevate politics over science slowed our response to COVID-19 and cost American lives. It has been shocking but should not be surprising. For more than three years the administration has been ignoring the science of climate change, slowing America’s response and allowing more long-term damage to our society and economy.

So, for the record: when it comes to climate, there is simply no comparison between the two major-party nominees. Trump’s climate and environmental record has been a disaster, while Biden has a plan to move the country to a 100% clean future.

In the coming months, voters will demand to hear each candidate’s plans for how they will rebuild America. They should insist that those plans build our country back, better and stronger. With more six million Americans filing for unemployment last week – our friends, neighbors and family members – we desperately need to reconstruct this economy.

Rebuilding the U.S. economy with a cleaner future top of mind will not just help us dig out of the current crisis, but it will help us build back better and stronger. Aggressive targets for dramatically reducing climate pollution, coupled with trillions of dollars in job-creating investment in clean energy mean that we are investing in industries that will lead the next great economic expansion. One candidate has pillars of such a plan in place. The other is proving every day that his world-view and countless bad decisions have made our problems worse.

Finally, our country is seeing economic disruption on a vast scale. Once we get past this crisis, Americans will be much more sensitive to the cost and human toll emergencies have on us all. Pre-COVID, more Americans were seeing climate impacts — and this awareness was driving the call for urgent action. Post-COVID, our research shows, the nation is focused even more on heeding the warnings of scientists and experts.

Put this through a very political lens — no place in America is more vulnerable to climate impacts than Florida and research shows that voters there care deeply about the issue. And Florida is the swing state Trump can’t afford to lose. A message from Biden that he will stand up for the state’s economy – from tourism to agriculture – with bold action to deal with climate change would be embraced by voters.

As the campaign for President takes shape, Joe Biden has an opportunity to contrast his plans with Trump’s dangerous record on climate change and the environment. The president has called climate science a hoax – the same word he used on criticism of his coronavirus response. He’s pushed new rules that will increase pollution and put corporate lobbyists in charge of our environmental policy. Young people, progressives, Latino voters, moderate suburbanites, and voters in climate vulnerable states need to hear the stark contrast between the two candidates on this issue.

I think they will — in time. And we’ll all soon get a chance to vote for one of two starkly different visions of our shared climate change future. Until then, let’s continue to wash our hands, stay put, and comfort our loved ones from afar.

Paid for by EDF Action, www.EDFAction.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.