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With Super Tuesday securing Biden and Trump for the November ballot, let’s explore some of their work that has left impacts on the fight to tackle climate change.

The red flag of a changing climate wasn’t on the radar until the late 1980s. At the time, 1988 was the hottest recorded year on record standing at 0.42º C above the 20th century average. This has since been surpassed, and 2023 broke numerous records including global temperature and billion-dollar weather disasters.  The average temperature last year was 1.18º C above the 20th-century average. 

Biden’s Climate Benefitting Policies

Since taking office Biden has enacted some of the most expansive climate change policies in the nation’s history. The administration passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. Both put significant funding and resources into clean energy and climate change mitigation. 

Biden’s administration also created the Justice40 Initiative. This pipeline of funding established that 40% of overall benefits from clean energy and similar investments flow back into disadvantaged communities. Minority and low-income communities face substantial disparities when it comes to the harmful effects of climate change. They are also more likely to have toxic polluting facilities placed in their neighborhoods. 

The Clinton and Obama administrations also addressed these shortcomings. Clinton passed an Executive Order to confront environmental justice. Obama reconvened the Interagency Environmental Justice Working Group which was created through Clinton’s Executive Order. To right the wrongs often faced by minority communities, Biden created two councils of environmental justice. 

Last year the EPA announced a selection of 11 regional grantmakers that will distribute funding to organizations that work in environmental justice. 

There have also been investments in clean energy infrastructure. In collaboration with the EPA, Vice President Harris announced grant awards to 280 school districts to aid in the transition to electronic vehicle school buses

The Department of Transportation has the goal to cut all greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 2050.  

Less than Perfection

However, Biden’s climate impact has been far from perfect. In March 2023, he gave the green light for the Willow Project. This oil drilling project is a National Petroleum reserve on Alaska’s north slope. The decision has been met with criticism from climate activists. 

Sights have been set high to limit global warming. If Trump wins a second term, these investments will be under threat. 

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Trump’s Climate Report Card

Soon after Trump took office in 2017 he announced that the U.S. would be pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This agreement sponsored by the United Nations is a legally binding international treaty to address climate change. However, the U.S. didn’t fully leave the agreement until November 2020. The deal went into effect one day after the 2020 election. 

Once Biden took office in 2021 he rejoined the treaty. 

A new analysis from Carbon Brief warns that if Trump resumes office, the U.S. could see an extra four billion tonnes of carbon emitted.

Carbon dioxide and methane are two of the most dangerous greenhouse gases. High atmospheric presences of both compounds create a heat-locking effect. This decreases the amount of heat that can reflect back into space and control a stable climate. 

Climate Change Denial, Donations from Big Oil

Trump has previously said that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese government, long before he took office in 2017. During his presidency, he walked back this claim but reaffirmed that he didn’t believe it was man-made. In 2022, he changed his mind once again and returned to calling it a hoax.

A 2021 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that humans are “unequivocally” to blame for climate change. Despite what scientists have been saying for decades, Trump refuses to validate these facts. 

The biggest climate impact we are likely to see from Trump would be the deconstructing of current policies. The former president has also said he wants to reverse the Inflation Reduction Act. Critical programs created in the act would be dismantled. During his term, he was responsible for nearly 100 rollbacks of environmental policies. 

Oil and gas tycoons have made their support known by gifting large donations to Trump’s current campaign. Harold Hamm, Oklahoma City-based co-founder of Continental Resources donated $200,000 to the campaign in November. 

Some climate scientists believe that another four years of Trump would be harmful, but they say the U.S. could bounce back. However, it could cause devastation to the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5º C.  

In Conclusion

No matter who secures the next presidential term, the nation’s climate impact will likely shift.

If Biden wins his reelection, the programs that his administration has created will continue to expand. Pressure will persist from climate activists and scientists who believe that he could be doing more. 

Even if Trump rolls back progress created during Biden’s presidency it won’t be the end all. It might impact the goals set in the Paris Agreement, but the cuts to federal programs could be reversed by the next administration.

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