Admitting is the first step.
The White House is officially acknowledging the existence of climate change on its website again under the Biden administration, after president Trump scrubbed any mention of greenhouse gas emissions on his first day in office four years ago.
“President Biden will take swift action to tackle the climate emergency,” the site’s “Priorities” section reads. “The Biden Administration will ensure we meet the demands of science, while empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution.”
Four years ago, Donald Trump, a longtime climate denier who once called greenhouse emissions a “con,” removed a page about climate change on his first official day in office, replacing it with a post about his “America First Energy Plan.” The move and other earlier Trump actions aimed at slashing environmental protections set off frantic efforts from scientists and professors to rehost and save government-supported scientific information online.
“President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US rule,” the White House website said then. “Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.”
Mr Biden has pledged to roll back many of the changes the Trump administration made to the US environmental regime, as well as institute ambitious new plans to tackle climate change. On his first day in office, he rejoined the landmark Paris Climate Accords via executive order after the Trump administration pulled the US out.
While Mr Biden doesn’t fully support a Green New Deal, experts have labelled his climate agenda the boldest ever from a US president. It aims to make America go net-zero on carbon emissions by 2050, rather than the Green New Deal’s 2030 target. It wouldn’t ban fracking, but would invest $2trn in clean energy, and seek carbon-free renewable electricity by 2035.
He’s also pledged to have the federal government consider long-term climate impacts when making new rules, and review numerous regulations weakened and eliminated by the Trump administration, which pledged to slash two rules for every new one it implemented.
Climate has also been a focus of his appointments, including selecting the US’s first ever domestic climate adviser, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Gina McCarthy, and nominating Brian Deese, an Obama administration official who helped negotiate the Paris Climate agreement, as a top economic adviser, though some environmentalists questioned his ties to Wall Street since he previously served as head of sustainable investing at asset manager BlackRock .
The Biden efforts are a far cry from the brazen climate denial of the Trump years. Even in late 2020, as wildfires ravaged the West Coast thanks in part to climate change, the president told a group of California officials “It'll start getting cooler. You just watch... I don't think science knows, actually."
President Trump also rolled back numerous environmental and emissions regulations, replaced the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and weakened its vehicle fuel economy standards, as well as opened US public lands to fossil fuel exploration and appointing climate deniers like Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general with close ties to energy lobbyists, to head key environmental posts like the EPA.