WRITTEN BY: EVIE FITZPATRICK
For an issue so apparent and evident as climate change, it seems to be playing a minor role in the 2020 Presidential Election. The truth is that climate change is, and will continue to, affect all of us. In fact, although 42% of Joe Biden supporters say that climate change is very important to their vote, only 11% of Donald Trump supporters say this. This brings up the question on how important it is when deciding on what candidate to vote for. How different are their views on climate change? And what solutions do each of the candidates bring to the table? Surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly for some), Biden and Trump have two entirely different perspectives on the matter, which can be shown in their plans for climate change. Whether you are eligible or ineligible to vote, it is vital to be aware of how our ever-changing climate will be affected by this upcoming election. Our futures are at risk.
President Donald Trump has often been criticized for his lack of prioritization of climate change. Some of his most recognizable quotes regarding climate change that exemplify this fact include:
November 6 2012 – Trump tweets that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
December 6, 2013 – Trump tweets that “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”
January 2014 – Trump goes onto Fox News declaring that climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated by “scientists [who] are having a lot of fun.”
September 21, 2015 – Trump appears on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show and says that “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. It could be warming, and it’s going to start to cool at some point. And you know, in the early, in the 1920s, people talked about global cooling…They thought the Earth was cooling. Now, it’s global warming…But the problem we have, and if you look at our energy costs, and all of the things that we’re doing to solve a problem that I don’t think in any major fashion exists.”
One may think, “Well, these are OLD tweets, he believes in climate change now.” For one, Trump is known for switching his views to please the American people. In addition, the Trump Administration has a plethora of policies that exemplify their lack of prioritization for climate change. In March of 2017, for example, Trump pushed for the Environmental Protection Agency to halt gathering of information on oil and gas companies regarding methane leaks. This is vital information that could have determined the role these leaks have in releasing this gas (which although is short-lived in the atmosphere, is 25 to 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide). Another striking action of his was his executive order in that same month to eliminate any restrictions regarding the United States’ production of energy. This order made it more difficult for regulations to be placed on fossil fuel industries, as cited by an administration official that “They don’t reflect the president’s priorities when it comes to dealing with climate change. We want to do it with our own policy, in our own fashion.” One of the most well-known acts of the Trump Administration relating to climate change was when he announced that the United States would be leaving the Paris Agreement in June of 2017. The Paris Climate Agreement is an accord involving almost every major country that pushes to act on climate change, and making sure that major greenhouse emitters would reduce their carbon footprint. This announcement of withdrawal for many was the confirmation of Trump’s lack of immediacy regarding climate change. This action alone shone a light on his true views:climate change is not an important issue to him. It is worth noting that withdrawing from the agreement is a lengthy and complex process, as it takes at least three times before a country can officially announce that they wish to be dropped from the agreement, and even then it takes an additional year for this to become final. However, on November 4, 2019, President Trump gave the United Nations its official notice of the U.S’ departure from the Paris Agreement.
Focusing on the present, it is also worth noting that Trump has touched on his plans for the future regarding climate change, and what he would do if he was re-elected. During the first Presidential Debate, President Trump spoke of his goals for the environment, saying “I want crystal clean water and air. I want beautiful clean air. We have now the lowest carbon. If you look at our numbers right now, we are doing phenomenally.” However, he failed to mention how exactly he would achieve this. Trump also mentioned how the devastating California wildfires are to blame by the state and their poor forest management (although 57% of the forest land is owned by the federal government). He also talked about lowering energy prices by rolling back former president Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (which limited the carbon emissions that could be released from U.S. power plants) and in the future giving incentives to the usage of electric cars. A common thread amongst Trump while talking about climate change during this debate was his lack of explanation. More times than not, he attacked former Vice President Joe Biden over the Green New Deal (which Biden has stated he does not fully support), but often lacked to expand on his own plans and initiatives.
Former Vice President Biden takes a very different approach to tackling climate change. Unlike some on the left, Biden does not fully support the Green New Deal (which not only pushes for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but also calls for goals for creating affordable housing and universal healthcare). Instead, he hopes to push forward his initiative of the “Biden Plan.” This plan, like the Green New Deal, would focus on more than just reducing the U.S.’ carbon footprint, but Biden’s plan is much more detailed and explicit on how these goals would be accomplished. According to the Washington Post, Biden’s plan would have “Congress to pass legislation mandating emissions cuts from electric utilities and offering generous checks to those buying electric vehicles. His campaign says the plan will cost $2 trillion — not $100 trillion — over four years and would be paid for in part by rolling back Trump’s tax cuts.” In addition to this, Biden would ensure that communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change would get the aid they need. In fact, Biden wants 40% of the money earmarked for this to go to disadvantaged areas. This specific aspect of his plan lines up with some of the goals set forth by the Green New Deal. Other plans for climate change that Biden has talked about include making changes to our railroad and transportation systems, creating 1.5 million sustainable housing units, and giving tax incentives to promote the creation of clean and energy efficient jobs. Critics of Biden and his plan claim that there is no possible way that the United States could pay for it. However, Biden has already stated how the Biden Plan would be paid for. According to the New York Times, “Biden will increase the corporate income tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent and use some still-undetermined amount of stimulus money.” It is clear to see that Joe Biden has a current plan for climate change, but it is also important to analyze his past record on the topic.
Biden has had a strong environmental record since he was elected into public office. One of Biden’s most important moments in the Senate was in 1986, when he introduced the Global Climate Protection Act (which pushed for a task force to be created by the President that could work on creating a strategy for climate change). Although this first bill ultimately “died” in the Senate, it was eventually revived the following year as an amendment on a State Department bill. This was not the first time a climate-related bill was introduced in the Senate, but it was still one of the first stepping stones for initiative. In 1988, Biden was an open supporter of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, which allowed the United States to work with foreign countries and governments to help preserve tropical forests. As Vice President under President Barack Obama, Biden was also involved with acting on climate change. During his Vice Presidency, he oversaw the Recovery Act, which saw the Energy Department invest more than $31 billion across the country in developing alternative energy fuels for transportation, reducing energy costs for homes and businesses, and creating and implementing carbon capture and storage strategies. Not only did this revolutionary act lead to growth in the economy, but it also pushed for clean energy on a nation-wide scale. Lastly, Biden was in office with President Obama during the historic entering of the Paris Climate Agreement. It can be seen that Joe Biden has, and is, for addressing climate change across the U.S., and the world.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden have polarizing views on not only climate change as a whole, but the steps needed to control its effects. At the end of the day, Trump has always been a skeptic of climate change, and although he may believe in it now, he still does not think of it as a priority; he continues to blame everyone except himself on why climate change is still an issue. As current President, he needs to take responsibility, especially in order to gain new voters for the upcoming election. Young voters whose first election is this November care a lot about climate change. When voting in the 2020 Presidential Election, it is vital to know how climate change relates to it, and how the Earth is on the line this November. Do not forget to stay educated on the topics, and get your vote in! Every vote counts.
Evie Fitzpatrick is a 15-year-old sophomore at Davidson Early College High School. She is extremely passionate about politics and activism, and loves to share that with those around her. Evie also enjoys blogging, playing the violin, and volunteering at her local science museum. In the future, she hopes to become a biological anthropologist!