Biden's Time to Take Climate Action is Running Out

Biden's Time to Take Climate Action is Running Out

It's been only one year since President Biden took office, yet the window to take action on rising emissions is suddenly narrowing. In the past, even when passing legislation was politically out of the question, a pro-climate executive branch could still reduce emissions through regulatory action by the EPA. But now, even this backup tactic may not be an option. If the Supreme Court ruling is unfavorable in the upcoming West Virginia v. EPA, the agency's authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act could be severely diminished.

History tells us that this threat is significant, Axios reports, because unless Congress can pass a climate package, the Biden Administration "might not have the option of turning to the executive and regulatory approach that the Obama administration used on climate after it ran into its own congressional roadblocks."

Jamal Raad, the co-founder of the environmental group Evergreen Action, states, "How much of the Clean Air Act [the Supreme Court decides] to gut, or if they decide to do it, is really an open question."

Why This Matters

The necessary actions to meet the Paris Agreement's goal to limit warming to at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius are already not being met. As the world strives to recover from COVID-19, demand for oil and gas has risen significantly, while greenhouse gas emissions threaten to return to a higher than pre-pandemic level. Weather stations across the world saw record-setting heatwaves in 2021, and scientists say these extremes could be the "new normal.” Expeditiously passing a climate package and enforcing adequate emissions regulations are essential strategies to promoting clean energy and combating this dangerous trend.

Beyond Build Back Better

Raad maintains that the passing of a climate package is still not out of the question. Despite Build Back Better (BBB) -- the Biden Administration's massive plan to cut emissions through clean energy investment and infrastructure improvements -- having been blocked by opposition including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), there's still 90-95% agreement across the board on the climate provisions included in the proposal. Regarding those, Raad told Axios, "The climate stuff is the most fully baked of all the different proposals. It is now time for that same energy and work to go into making the tough choices necessary to get us over the finish line."

Reuters: 2021 saw jump in greenhouse-gas emissions, says report, January 10, 2022.

The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 30, 2021.

Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft: Climate Chaos - Confronting the Real Existential Threat, November 4, 2021.