Knowing these differing stances can help one understand where the future of the nation’s climate action might lie.
The presentational differences between the current US President Donald Trump and his successor Joe Biden, the president elect, could not be more different.
And there is also a huge chasm between to two septuagenarian politicians when it comes to their approach to climate breakdown, framing their differing levels of support for science, policy and economics.
Therefore Biden's elevation to the Oval Office will see one of the most dramatic shifts in environmental policy the US has seen since fellow Democrat Jimmy Carter, a huge fan of renewable power, was removed from the White House in the early 1980s by Republican Ronald Regan.
As election season draws to a close, it’s crucial to understand the difference in policies. All major networks have declared victory for Joe Biden, even if Donald Trump has yet to concede the race.
Even though Trump lost, his stance may influence political decisions as his fellow Republican party members remain in positions of power.
Knowing each side’s climate stance can help influence future elections and understand what may come. With that in mind, here’s where Biden and Trump stand on environmental issues.
The US consumes 100.2 quadrillion Btus of energy a year, and most of that comes from fossil fuels. If any policy is going to address the nation’s role in climate change, it needs to tackle this truth. Here’s where both candidates stand on clean energy.
Trump has made remarks about making the US a world leader in oil and gas production. This focus on fossil fuels indicates little concern for transitioning to clean energy. His website also makes no mention of renewable energy generation, either in support or opposition to it.
During his time as president, Trump’s actions have consistently favored fossil fuels over renewables.
His administration reversed earlier policies that encouraged clean energy, stimulating fossil fuel growth instead. He also pushed to revitalize the coal industry, though these efforts seem to have had minimal impact.
In contrast, Biden’s climate stance leans much further towards renewable energy. Most notably, he announced a $2 trillion clean energy plan focusing on research and development. Among other things, the plan aims to create a carbon-free power sector by 2035.
Biden’s climate plan also involves the termination of subsidies for fossil fuel generation. It’s worth noting, though, that his campaign does not intend to end the controversial and environmentally destructive practice of fracking.
Pollution is another substantial threat the US poses to the environment. While some companies have enacted pollution reduction goals, it will take a national movement to solve the issue. This is what Trump and Biden have to say on the matter.
Water and air pollution have been the focus of Trump’s environmental policies and stances. His website lists leading the world in clean water and air access as part of his second-term agenda. Simultaneously, the Trump administration has removed clean water protections and supported the pollution-heavy fossil fuel industry.
As president, Trump has supported initiatives to remove waste from the seas around the US. Similarly, he has allocated funding for the construction of clean water infrastructure. Notably, though, Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement, which holds nations accountable for reducing air pollution.
A noteworthy aspect of Biden’s climate plan is the pursuit of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Encouraging emissions cuts in the auto manufacturing and transportation industries play a central role in attaining this goal.
Perhaps most notably, Biden has announced plans to rejoin the Paris Agreement. The president-elect claims to have played a role in the accord initially, but his actual involvement is unclear.
Creating an effective plan to protect the environment requires an understanding of the factors that influence climate change.
As such, candidates’ relationships with climate science and scientists can indicate their commitment to the environment. Here’s a closer look at how each candidate has dealt with climate science in their past.
Trump’s relationship with climate scientists is strained at best. The EPA’s scientists say that the Trump administration has left them out of the agency’s decision-making process. Under this administration, the agency also dismissed many of the members of its Board of Scientific Counselors.
In May 2019, the Trump administration ended a NASA program that monitored greenhouse gas emissions. Throughout his presidency, Trump has also repeatedly dismissed scientists’ findings that emphasized the urgency of climate change.
During his campaign, Biden has criticized Trump’s dismissal of climate science. His own climate stance also reveals much higher regard for this field of research. Funding further climate and green energy research is a core tenet of Biden’s climate plan.
One of the recommendations in this plan is the creation of a National Climate Council, which would put climate specialists in decision-making roles. It’s also worth noting that this plan’s co-chair is the director of Duke University’s Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.
Overall, the Trump administration hasn’t verbalized many firm stances on the environment. That said, the president’s actions over the past four years speak for themselves. Climate change is not a leading concern of the current administration.
The Trump presidency has been largely unsupportive of environmental progress. Still, it hasn’t always prevented environmental organizations from attaining considerable achievements. Substantial advancements in green technology have occurred independently in the last four years.
President-elect Biden’s stance on the environment is much clearer. He has promised to reinstate Obama-era environmental protections as well as correct some of their shortcomings.
Biden’s proposed climate plan would be the nation’s most substantial action against climate change yet. Whether or not the Biden administration will follow through on all of its promises has yet to be seen, though.
Knowing these differing stances can help one understand where the future of the nation’s climate action might lie. The US has traditionally fallen short when it comes to eco-friendliness, but that could be on its way to changing.
About the Author
Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.