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New year, new president and same climate issues

Updated: Apr 21

By Emma Harris

Publication Date: February 18, 2021

Painting of the Earth Shredded in Homage to Bangsy's Girl with a Balloon

Before the November 2020 election, Rider students were abuzz. Between Rider Votes educating their peers and a two-day teach-in all about the history of voting, students were deep into the spirit of election season. For some, there was an excitement around having the ability to vote in their first general election, and for others, the ability to select a candidate that most aligned with their values became paramount. There was an overwhelming feeling that this could be the most important election to take part in our lifetime.

Voter turnout rates proved that there was motivation, but the question remains — what was behind it? While there is no definitive answer, many turned out to cast an “environmental vote.” As such, keeping a close eye on the new administration is important when it comes to this issue.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States and after a long campaign season with many promises made surrounding the candidate’s environmental policy, keeping up with his follow through and holding the new administration accountable will be ongoing throughout his presidency.

Throughout their campaign, the Biden and Kamala Harris duo boasted of their commitment to the massive environmental threat of climate change, promising “a 100% clean energy economy and . . . net-zero emissions no later than 2050,” according to the campaign website.

The administration looks to set the country on an irreversible path to becoming carbon neutral, not only reversing harmful legislation put into place by the previous administration, but ensuring that future presidents cannot negatively redirect the country.

President Biden acknowledges that this is not only a domestic threat, but we as a nation must consider climate action to be of utmost importance in foreign affairs and national security.

Following his first day in office and rejoining of the Paris Climate Accord, in a Jan. 27 executive order, Biden enacted a policy that would hold the United States accountable on a global scale.

This order created a new position with John Kerry as the special presidential envoy for climate, who will serve as a part of the National Security Council and address the threats that climate change poses to Americans at home and the planet as a whole. Additionally, in addressing the significant ways that climate change and environmental injustice can disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income communities across the nation, the president nominated Deb Haaland as the first Native American secretary of the interior to work exclusively on this issue.

Senior musical theatre major Daniel Booda recognized that “It is great to see all of the progress that has been made toward environmental action and reversing the negative impacts of the previous administration, but it is extremely important to continue to push and hold the president accountable for the promises he has made.”

In a string of executive orders within his first week in the Oval Office, Biden made huge strides towards reversing previous harmful actions and creating positive forward movement, such as revoking federal permits for the Keystone XL pipeline and pledging to host an international Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day 2021.

During a recent press conference, White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy called for citizen engagement to reduce carbon emissions, emphasizing that American citizens have a shared responsibility to take action.

McCarthy stated, “Here at home, we have to do our part, or we will not be able to make the kind of worldwide change that climate change demands.”

Senior political science major Matthew Schantin said of Biden’s initial days in office, “I appreciate the swiftness of Biden’s executive orders and I hope he continues to mobilize every power of his office to address the climate crisis. Actions like rejoining the Paris climate agreement and halting the Keystone XL pipeline are just the beginning. Dealing with climate change with the urgency it deserves means fewer compromises and concessions to Republicans”. With all of this positive progress being made so quickly, it can be easy to move on and hope that everything will work out well, but it cannot be forgotten that climate change is a massive threat to human life. The global climate crisis cannot be solved with a few simple executive orders.

We must continue to hold politicians accountable for their promises and their actions. Significant change needs to be made to redirect our planet in a greener direction.

The 2020 election may be over but the fight for climate action is far from through. Environmental voters need to plan for future elections with the same degree of urgency as in November 2020.

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