Neustadter: If you care about the environment, vote for Joe Biden

Corinne Neustadter

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

This year’s presidential election is truly like no other. Never before have such drastic crises illuminated the depreciating state of American affairs; with a national movement for racial justice, a devastating pandemic and an unstable economy, this election comes at a time like no other.

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Voting in this election has the potential to create catalyzing change to resolve these issues in the best way possible. Moreover, it can ensure the health and well-being for generations of Americans to come, making it one of the most consequential elections in human history, especially for students our age.

To mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says carbon dioxide emissions must be cut by 45% by 2030. If we want to get anywhere close to this goal, drastic climate policies must be passed within the next few years.

If you care about the environment, Joe Biden is the only rational choice for president.

Joe Biden is the only major candidate to have a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change — “Trump, literally, has proposed no formal climate plan” according to CNBC — that covers many of the concerns Americans have about climate policy, from using clean energy to creating new jobs in an economy that encourages climate innovation.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s policies while in office have significantly damaged the environment, despite his claim that he is “number one since Teddy Roosevelt,” on environmental policies. According to the Rhodium Group, a research firm researching energy and climate data, “Trump’s major climate policy rollbacks have the potential to add 1.8 gigatons of CO2-equivalent to the atmosphere by 2035.”

If you care about the environment, Joe Biden is the only rational choice for president.

Voting for Biden is absolutely crucial in this election for the sake of the environment, not because his plan is perfect, but because it’s a critical starting point necessary if we have any hope of mitigating the worst impacts of climate change.

Biden’s plan “ensure(s) the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.” While this may seem like a too-distant goal, the plan’s subsequent components represent the first steps in policy that can help lower emissions by the year 2030.

It subsequently plans to “build a stronger, more resilient nation” through spending on infrastructure, as well as pushing foreign nations to continue fighting against climate change — and recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement in the process.

To achieve these goals, the plan includes, “a federal investment of $1.7 trillion over the next ten years,” which with the support of private, state and local funds will total more than $5 trillion. Collectively, the US has spent “more than $154 billion on climate-changed related activities since 1993”, making increased investment absolutely necessary to mitigate carbon emissions.

While this may seem like a large number, it pales in comparison to the national military budget. In the year 1993 alone, the proposed budget for defense spending was $281 billion  — by 2015, the US spent $598.5 billion, “54% of all federal discretionary spending.” Saying that remediating the worst effects of climate change is “too expensive” is simply incorrect — if we can spend billions per year in the name of national defense, then we can spend billions in the next ten years in the name of saving our planet.

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To meet this critical moment, we need a leader who can stand up to the challenge. Joe Biden’s plan for the climate may need some improvements, but right now, it’s the best plan we’ve got. It is able to work towards greener practices by marrying government spending with market forces. As Logan Goldie-Scot, “head of clean power research at energy-finance consulting group Bloomberg NEF” said in an interview for CNBC, “what gives the policies a chance to work is that they exploit the fact that costs for (electric vehicles) and renewable power are already falling.”

By incentivizing the production of electric vehicles and renewable energy, Biden’s plan helps to mitigate the costs of switching to a cleaner economy over a faster time period. Even so, Biden has shown that it is still open to change — a promising sign for progressives seeking more aggressive action.

To advise his climate policies, Biden formed the Climate Change Unity Task Force, tapping Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Secretary of State John Kerry to lead it.

This task force was able to bridge Democrats from across the political spectrum by tapping Ocasio-Cortez, the co-author of the Green New Deal, alongside Kerry, “an architect of the Paris Climate Accord“, and was able to make Biden’s policies more ambitious — they succeeded, “in getting Biden to embrace a more aggressive timeline for decarbonizing the electrical grid, and to promise to direct more than 40% of his proposed $2 trillion in climate spending toward the communities most at risk from pollution and climate change—which tend to be low-income communities of color.”

Voting for Biden is paramount not only for the state of our country, but for the state of our planet. As renowned climate scientist Michael Mann says, “a second Trump term is game over for the climate…the future of this planet is now in the hands of American citizens.”

Corinne Neustadter can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @cneustad.