Biden’s Soft Climate Denialism

Inadequate political will in the face of climate disruption is a particularly big problem in the U.S., the world’s largest producer of both oil and natural gas, writes Basav Sen.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivering remarks at the Accelerating Net Zero Innovation event during U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Nov. 2, 2021. (White House, Adam Schultz)

By Basav Sen

In early April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global scientific body, issued yet another dire report. They warned that we have barely three years to start cutting greenhouse emissions as rapidly as we need to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption.

These scientists put the largest share of the blame on fossil fuels. But they also show that renewable energy is already cost-competitive. “Systems in some countries and regions are already predominantly powered by renewables,” they note.

The report makes clear that the technology to transition from fossil fuels already exists — all that’s lacking is political will. And that’s a particularly big problem in the U.S. country, the world’s largest producer of both oil and natural gas.

It’s a problem even for an administration that says it accepts the science of climate change and wants to take action.

For example, on the eve of the IPCC report, the White House announced a plan to deal with high gas prices. Undoubtedly, high gas prices are causing hardship. But the White House plan makes the long-term problem of climate change worse without even solving the short-term problem of gas prices.

The plan centers around “doing everything we can to encourage domestic production” of oil. This is unlikely to bring down prices in the short term, since new drilling sites can take years to become operational. But it will almost certainly make emissions harder to reduce down the line.

Part of a Pattern

This is part of a pattern. So far, the Biden administration has tried to sell its Bipartisan Infrastructure Law as a measure against climate change. That law does some good things, but on balance it may do more harm than good for the climate.

The legislation offers no funding at all for renewable electricity generation. But it sets aside billions in new fossil fuel subsidies dressed up as green technologies.

For instance, it pushes both carbon capture and hydrogen production from fracked gas. There’s no evidence that carbon capture works at scale — it may even cause more emissions than it removes, since it allows fossil fuel companies to continue polluting. And hydrogen from fracked gas has a worse climate impact than coal.

The bill also continues the harmful American tradition of overfunding highways and underfunding public transportation. Incentivizing more car travel but not cleaner mass transit is a recipe for more transportation emissions, not fewer.

“The bill also continues the harmful American tradition of overfunding highways and underfunding public transportation.”

Then there was the notorious incident last year, when President Joe Biden gave a speech at the Glasgow climate talks proclaiming U.S. leadership on the issue. But within days of his return, the administration announced the results of the largest U.S. offshore oil drilling lease sale ever.

Fortunately, a federal district court invalidated the lease sale, and the Interior Department decided not to appeal the decision, bowing to grassroots pressure from affected communities and their allies. But if the sale had gone through, it would have produced as much greenhouse gas as 130 coal-burning power plants.

The Biden administration claims it believes in climate science, but its record shows a gap between these beliefs and the administration’s actions — what you might call a “soft denial” of climate science.

Fortunately, grassroots community members from Los Angeles to the Gulf Coast to West Virginia have won important fights to protect their communities, and our planet, from pollution.

As the planet warms and midterms approach, the administration needs to listen to communities like these — and take real action before it’s too late.

Basav Sen is the cli­mate jus­tice project direc­tor at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and writes on the inter­sec­tions of cli­mate change and social and eco­nom­ic jus­tice. Pri­or to join­ing IPS, Basav worked for 11 years as a cam­paign researcher for the Unit­ed Food and Com­mer­cial Workers.

This article is from OtherWords.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

5 comments for “Biden’s Soft Climate Denialism

  1. Vera Gottlieb
    May 12, 2022 at 16:25

    Forget about COP26…focus on RIP20?? Money can buy many things but not a poisoned planet.

  2. mgr
    May 11, 2022 at 07:09

    Thank you. It is estimated that there are three times the amount of greenhouse gases stored in the permafrost of the northern hemispheres as already exists in the atmosphere. The current atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases as we are seeing have already brought us to about a 1.2 C rise in average global temperatures. The environmental impact of this is obvious; record high temperatures around the globe year after year breaking all previous records, forest fires that never end, super tornadoes, hurracaines that gain strength over land, acidifying oceans, etc., etc. And we are shortly about to reach a tipping point with melting permafrost.

    When permafrost melts, it releases its greenhouse gases. The increase in greenhouses gases raises the global temperature even further. As a result, more permafrost melts and more gases are released. And round we go. Once we enter an environmental feedback loop, it never stops. Not, at least, until it runs out of fuel.

    Current projections are that based on what we are doing today, we are headed for a 2.7 C rise in temperature. That is more than double what we have now. The actions of the Biden admin both domestically as well as in Ukraine, and in the world, notably, by establishing a new Cold War that will last for generations (if we survive), may very well have guaranteed that we fall right into that feedback loop, not to mention many others. Consider the current effects. Now figure the effects that come from doubling the our current temperature rise.

    As disastrous as that is in itself, our lack of action, right now, today, will almost inevitably result in dumping all that 3x greenhouse gases currently stored in the permafrost (feedback loops run until they’re empty). Do the math. It won’t matter how many “kitchen-table fusion reactors,” electric cars or carbon scrubbers we have. It’s just too much. Banal Joe Biden may just become the killer of humanity on this planet. This is mindless outcome of the cabal of “US nationalists,” much like those in Ukraine, who are now running the country. It seems like the common thread with all these psychopaths is destroying everyone and everything of value around you.

  3. Jack Siler
    May 10, 2022 at 11:14

    The Limits To Growth was published in 1072. It was probably the most important non-fiction book published since WW II that everybody read except the decision-makers. It was based on hard facts and most of it came true, right down to wars in quantity over energy productions and their limits.

    The last update was published in 2004. Since it was published by a scientific trio based on the findings of an astounding group of international specialists in each area covered, those alive have renewed the info in their fields and the deceased have been supplemented by eminent successors in their field. It remains shocking and valid. Everyone interested in the physical state of the world and its reprecussions, past, present, and future should read it.

  4. Manifold Destiny
    May 10, 2022 at 03:20

    “The report makes clear that the technology to transition from fossil fuels already exists — all that’s lacking is political will.”

    Buckminster Fuller made a strong case that the technology already existed in his last book, “Critical Path”. That was forty years ago.

    FORTY YEARS AGO! I’m afraid the political will always be “lacking”.

  5. Anonymot
    May 9, 2022 at 19:02

    Whoever runs our government and his son are so intimately beholden to gas, oil, and armament production that nothing but wars will do to promote the fillfullment of their obligations to friends’ bank accounts. Climate change does nothing but extend the lives of our children.

    While they arrange an international hysteria over the grief of a small number of children (and adults) who were killed (and any one killed of any age in a war is unforgivable) as a result of Vickie’s regime change, the war that the souless dictator triggered, will be compensated by vast new customers for arms, gas, and oil. Economically it’s boomtime for some, deadly for the public and small, unproven details like climate change and election promises made. Sound familiar? Sound like Trump? Sound Blue? Sound bidenesque? Maybe Proud Boyish? Boogeymen hiding in Intel agencies?

    Strange. It seems to be a ‘One size fits all ‘.

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