Opinion: Biden’s environmental action is a step in the right direction

It has become clear to a growing portion of the population that climate change is a pressing and urgent issue. According to Pew Research Center, two-thirds of adults say that the federal government is not doing enough to combat the global effects of climate change. While the former president ignored this, President Biden has made climate change central to his domestic policy. In his first few weeks in office, Biden has rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, rescinded a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, has added 15 new environmental protections and has done many other things to help maintain our environment. These actions are a step forward considering that the former president scaled back over 200 environmental protections. However, executive action can only do so much to reduce the United States’ carbon footprint. The Biden administration needs to lobby congress to enact legislation that will further combat this crisis.

The former president pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement on June 1, 2017. Many world leaders were appalled by this decision including Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron and many others. Former President Trump claimed that “I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris,” which was an interesting claim because the mayor of Pittsburgh said he supported the agreement. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the temperature change less than two degrees by the end of the century. Trump claimed that this agreement was unfair to our country, even though the U.S. is historically the largest emitter of carbon in the world. The U.S. does not even contribute the most money per GDP out of the 197 countries involved in the agreement. 

Even though the agreement does not go far enough in reducing emissions, when the world came together to combat climate change, it was a historic moment. This is why many U.S. citizens were embarrassed when it was our country that let the world down once again. However, with Biden’s pledge to rejoin the agreement, it could partially restore America’s respect around the world. Not only will this decision to rejoin the agreement combat climate change and help restore the U.S.’ reputation around the world, but it will also be economically beneficial as well. According to Stanford, pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement would cost the U.S. about $6 trillion in the coming decades. There have also been many studies that show that the price of inaction on climate change is way larger than the cost of reducing carbon usage. A study by Stanford Engineering stated that the economic damage done by carbon emissions would be six times larger than what the U.S. spends on carbon prevention currently. They also said that it could be similar for future prevention policies. 

Biden also rescinded a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that was going to expand the existing Keystone Pipeline system that was built in 2010. This pipeline would stretch from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, transporting 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day. The reason why many environmental activists opposed this pipeline is that the pipeline would be transporting tar sands oil, which is thicker and more corrosive. This would lead to increased oil spills in the future that could significantly hurt the environment. The existing Keystone pipeline has already spilled over 12 times, with the most recent spill occurring on Oct. 31, 2019. This spilled over 378,000 gallons of tar sands oil into North Dakota. These spills happen frequently, and they are environmentally devastating. The Keystone XL pipeline would cross many streams, rivers and other water bodies which could put our drinking water at risk. These oil spills caused by tar sands oil pipelines are often difficult to clean up as well. When an Enbridge pipeline leaked in 2010, it cost over $1 billion to clean up and took six years to settle in court. 

Biden taking action on environmental issues is a breath of fresh air, considering how anti-science our former president was. These actions are a good first step, but he will need to continue to fight for environmental organizations. For example, the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline is starting to be built in Minnesota, and Biden needs to rescind their permits. This pipeline is remarkably similar to the Keystone XL pipeline. Biden also must demand Congress to take action on this because executive action can only do so much. Proposals such as the Green New Deal are essential in combating one of the most important issues of our time. Politicians have largely talked a big game about combating climate change, but it is time for them to follow through.

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