by Jackie King
With Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, Americans are beginning to imagine how he is going to change our country in the next four years. Although there is an immeasurable amount of problems that the President must address in the United States of America, including the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice, the Biden White House cannot fail to attack climate change. It is crucial that Biden shapes his presidency around plans to battle the existential crisis of climate change in his next four years in office.
The years of 2015–2020 were the hottest six years on record for the entire planet. The past 12 months alone saw the United States’ worst wildfire season in recorded history, as well as numerous tropical storms on the east coast. The Great Lakes saw warming in their water, and sea levels rose globally. Not only is the United States individually affected by our high rates of pollution, but we contribute a large majority of greenhouse gases to the planet as a whole. In 2018, the U.S. alone produced 6.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, second only to China. The U.S. is also among the countries with the highest rates of emissions per person; combining all measured years together, the U.S. has “more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere than any other nation” according to The Guardian.
The world was already struggling enough in regards to pollution and global warming before President Trump’s inauguration, but his administration not only failed to acknowledge climate change as an issue, they implemented policies that made problems even worse than before. Many people assume that although climate change would be deadly eventually, it is not something to be worried about for their lifetime, but global warming experts at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stress that this is not true. The IPCC states that the Earth must completely transform all its energy systems by 2050 to prevent widespread ecological and social disruptions. These disruptions could include the die-offs of coral reefs, rising sea level, drought, famine, wildfires, and potential migrations of whole populations caused by the planet warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If that still seems far away to you, they also stressed that there must already be a significant downward path by 2030 for any hope of success in the future.
It is obvious that the pandemic and other societal issues should certainly be a top priority in Biden’s first months, but any competent President should be able to focus on more than one issue at a time. We cannot fix our problems simply because our new President believes in climate change. Even though that is a colossal improvement from the previous administration, this is no time to settle. We must continue reevaluating these issues after laws are passed and continue advocating for our planet until it is saved.
(Sources: The Journal, NY Times, The Washington Post)