For 'Climate Day,' Shirtless Joe Biden Washes Electric Car In White House Driveway
On his first day in office a week ago, Joe Biden committed the US to rejoining the Paris climate agreement and ordered a full review of Donald Trump's anti-environment policies. On Wednesday, he started building out that commitment, signing a suite of executive actions on climate. No big deal, just aiming to make the US a leader in the fight to get the world's greenhouse emissions under control, and revitalize the economy through clean energy jobs and manufacturing. It's pretty ambitious, and it has to be if we're to have any hope of keeping this planet habitable for large mammals with complex societies. (That's us.)
The orders Biden signed focus on several major goals: creating sustainable, good-paying jobs, pursuing environmental justice, and making the effort to reduce emissions a central focus of every part of the government. To actually get it done, Biden will need to follow his executive actions up by convincing Congress to pass a whole bunch of laws, including changes to the tax code.
The Biden fact sheet on the executive actions focuses on concrete actions, emphasizing that the changes we need to make will also be good for people and the economy, which strikes us as good marketing, since it's true.
Here's the presser President Biden held Wednesday with Gina McCarthy, who was Barack Obama's EPA administrator and is now Biden's domestic climate adviser, and John Kerry, the point guy on international climate diplomacy. We've cued it to Biden's portion of the event.
And let's just take a quick moment to be impressed with John Kerry's deft handling of a question about how we can possibly afford all this. Easy: the cost of not acting is already high, and is getting higher and higher.
Hot Lincoln makes a lot of sense here https://t.co/X1sEDVa3KY— Molly Jong-Fast🏡 (@Molly Jong-Fast🏡)1611790480.0
Go, Hot Lincoln.
Biden's overall goals — getting the US to net zero carbon emissions in the energy sector by 2035, and to net zero greenhouse emissions across the economy by 2050 — are in line with other nations' goals, and with the scientific consensus of what's needed to keep global temperatures livable and to avoid the worst projected effects. So how will Biden's orders today help get us there? Let us count the ways!
'Whole Of Government' Approach
No more shunting environmental concerns off into the EPA or the Interior Department. Biden rightly declares climate a matter of national security, and establishes a new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy (to be headed by McCarthy) and a National Climate Task Force, which will include leaders of 21 agencies and departments, to make sure everything the federal government does will include consideration of climate effects.
Use The Federal Government's Buying Power
Yes, kids, it's all about procurement! Biden's directing all government agencies to buy green and buy American, from sourcing energy to buying vehicle fleets. If government agencies are only in the market for zero-emissions vehicles, that's a powerful incentive for manufacturers to bring them to market for the general public. Also: make 'em union jobs.
Beyond that, government agencies will have to come up with plans to make their facilities and operations resilient to projected climate effects, which in itself is likely to create renovation and rebuilding jobs. As the New York Times points out,
Even the Washington headquarters of many agencies, including the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, sit inside the 100-year flood plain.
No New Oil/Gas Leases on Public Lands
This was one of Biden's biggest campaign promises, and it's a biggie. The order will stop any new leases for fossil fuel exploration on public lands or in US territorial waters. It won't affect existing leases, but does call for the relevant agencies to begin a "rigorous review of all existing leasing" policies with an aim to reducing the exploitation of public lands. Tribal lands would not be affected, but Biden is directing the Interior secretary — Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, once she's confirmed — to consult with tribes to encourage clean energy, which may not be a hard sell given over a century of environmental ruination by energy companies.
We haven't ever seen a president who's said so much about how our fossil fuel economy makes life objectively worse for poor and minority communities, largely because it's always been easier to build polluting plants near the people with the least economic and political power.
Biden isn't just paying lip service to the idea of environmental justice. His Wednesday order builds it into every part of the government. He establishes two new White House offices to "prioritize environmental justice and ensure a whole-of-government approach to addressing current and historical environmental injustices, including strengthening environmental justice monitoring and enforcement through new or strengthened offices" in the EPA, the Justice Department, and in Health and Human Services.
In addition, the order launches an effort to make sure 40 percent of federal investments in addressing climate change goes to disadvantaged communities that have been fouled since the Industrial age and through the current century.
Helping 'Energy Communities'
The order sets up an "Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization," to help communities that currently depend on fossil fuel production and refining make the transition to the clean energy economy. This one's gonna be important, as the 2016 election demonstrated. There's probably a dissertation or seven to be written on how Hillary Clinton's attempt to sell economic restructuring was sabotaged by rightwing media and politicians. She talked about retraining and opportunity, and directing investment to communities, but just her acknowledgement that coal miners would lose jobs got snipped out and spun as "evidence" she hated everyone in Appalachia, and dismissed as her simply telling them to "learn to code."
In addition to the job stuff, the order tasks the working group with coming up with projects that will create jobs while cleaning up sites, since abandoned and disused mines and oil wells are themselves significant sources of not only nasty toxins, but greenhouse gases, especially methane. A cleaned up former mining area will also be far more attractive to new employers.
Biden already hears the usual gang of assholes screaming "But whuddabout CHINA?," and he's ready to sic John Kerry, his special envoy for climate, on the rest of the world. Kerry (and future people holding the post) will have a seat on the National Security Council, and as with domestic policy, Biden wants US foreign policy to incorporate climate concerns too. That includes ordering Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to develop a "National Intelligence Estimate on the security implications of climate change," for starters, and for all agencies with overseas operations to include climate concerns in their work. Pretty sure the Defense Department won't have to do a full environmental impact statement before it bombs people, but maybe it should.
As he ordered on day one, Biden will host an international climate summit on Earth Day, April 22, at which he'll explain that the previous president went a little funny in the head and sold the country to pirates, but now we're all better and ready to be good international citizens again.
In addition, as the Washington Post 'splains, Biden will finally have the State Department
send to the Senate the Kigali Amendment, an international agreement to slash the use of a group of human-made compounds that both contribute to climate change and deplete the ozone layer. The Trump administration never submitted the treaty to Congress despite the urging of both business groups and several congressional Republicans.
The 'Science Is Real' Order
After four years of that other guy, Biden also signed a "Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking," which takes the radical liberal position that policy should be based on actual scientific evidence, not something you saw on Fox News. Jesus, we shouldn't need that, but there it is.
And that's your dang ol' summary! Weirdly, we're actually starting to feel something like optimism on climate.
We'd really like to get used to that.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.