By Scott Fitzpatrick

Now that President Joe Biden has moved into the White House, he has come in with more than luggage. He comes prepared with a strong agenda to tackle climate change.

There are multiple hills that Biden and his team will have to climb to see progress. He faces a divided Congress and other pressing issues, including the Covid pandemic, as he assumes the office. While global warming has been on Congress’ radar for years now, it is still an inch-by-inch battle.

We’re starting to see the start of a shift towards that battle. Biden has started laying the groundwork for future generations that will carry his torch of fighting global warming.

Upon entering office on Jan. 20, Biden signed an executive order committing the U.S. to re-enter the 2015 Paris Agreement. Just this week, Biden signed executive orders that “aim conserve 30 percent of the country’s lands and waters in the next 10 years, double the nation’s offshore wind energy, and move to an all-electric federal vehicle fleet, among other changes,” according to the Associated Press.  

On Jan. 27, which the president dubbed “Climate Day” and “Jobs Day,” he signed executive orders designed to create jobs related to clean energy, including net-zero emissions in farming, 100 million new jobs building electric cars, and transforming the U.S. electric grid to produce power without carbon pollution.

In addition, “We can put millions of Americans to work modernizing our water systems, transportation, our energy infrastructure to withstand the impacts of extreme climate,” Biden said in remarks before he signed the executive orders. “We’ve already reached a point where we’re going to have to live with what it is now.”

Prioritizing climate change will be necessary to move toward change. Ben Dworkin, Director of Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship, said Biden’s climate agenda needs the acceptance of every stakeholder involved, including Congress and large companies.

“The keyword to Biden’s agenda is that it’s a holistic approach,” Dworkin said. “They’ve accepted it, and they prioritized it and they’re taking a holistic approach, which gives it a better shot.

Ben Dworkin, Ph.D., Director, Rowan Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship. Photo courtesy of RIPPAC.

“It’s going be tough,” he added. “The challenge with these long-term plans, is that the presidency isn’t long term. The goal should be (for Biden) to build the momentum up enough so that the next person who comes in will find it easier to continue tackling climate change.”

Meanwhile, former Secretary of State John Kerry has been brought into the Administration as a  new special climate envoy on the White House National Security Council. Kerry was part of the  negotiations for The Paris Agreement in 2015, when he served with the Obama Administration.

John Kerry at a World Bank event when he was Secretary of State with the Obama Administration. Photo courtesy of World Bank Photo Collection. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The business sector seems to be coming on board. More than 40 companies support Biden’s re-entry of the U.S. into the Paris climate accord, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In a letter last month to the Biden transition team and Congress, the companies urged “President-elect Biden and the new Congress to work together to enact ambitious, durable, bipartisan climate solutions,” according to the article.

Climate solutions also are being discussed by political and governmental leaders in New Jersey. According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, “The four leading sources of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions in 2018-19 are transportation, electricity generation, commercial and industrial fossil fuel use, and residential fossil fuel use.“

In New Jersey, the Department added, “Transportation remains the largest source at 40.6 MMTCO2e, which is 42% of the net statewide GHG emissions. Electricity generation follows as the next largest source at 18.1 MMTCO2e, which is 19% of Statewide GHG emissions.”

Chart of New Jersey’s sources of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. Chart courtesy of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

New policies directed at this issue could be the starting charge in lowering emissions from transportation within the state of New Jersey. It will be a slow decrease, but over time it is likely there would be positive changes and possibly more.

At the national level, Biden’s not stopping with emissions. He also plans to also tackle the ravaging wildfires that the West Coast has suffered through because of the previous president’s blind eye.

“If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of American ablaze,” Biden said during his campaign. “We need a president who respects science, who understands that the damage from climate change is already here and unless we take urgent action, it’ll soon be more catastrophic.”

Tackling forest management also helps with the East Coast and its diminishing coastlines and habitats.

According to a 2019 report by Rutgers University, New Jersey’s sea levels rose an average of 1.5 feet along the New Jersey coast from 1911 to 2019, compared with the global average of 0.6 feet. The Rutgers team projected that, under a high-emissions scenario, sea levels in the state could rise to 3.5 feet by 2070 and 6.3 feet by 2100.

There hasn’t been much set in stone by the Biden Administration about tackling the rising shores, but coastal experts are hoping to partner Biden to target this issue during his term. A lot of Biden’s plans seem to be designed to help throughout all areas affected by climate change.

Ocean, courtesy of ouistitis. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0