The perils of climate change are upon us. The U.S. has spent far too long being ambivalent toward the dire threat of climate change, exacerbated under Trump’s administration. If we hope to counteract the effects of climate change, we must depend upon bold, progressive change. We need a leader unafraid to seize that opportunity.
As a progressive voter who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic presidential primaries, I’ve been wary about whether former Vice President Joe Biden can win over the progressive wing. Previously, I’ve criticized Biden’s faulty record on racial injustice and urged him to adopt progressive policies to defeat President Donald Trump this fall. Biden’s moderate politics may leave many progressive voters hesitant to support him in the general election, but his willingness to work with progressives, as well as his recent climate change plan, indicates that we should nevertheless unite behind Biden and vote blue in November.
Generally, politicians adopt more moderate positions in general elections compared to primaries. Biden, however, has worked closely with Sanders to do the opposite. Together, the two appointed six task forces and released joint policy positions to unite their supporters. That flexibility suggests that if Biden wins the presidency, progressives can use our momentum and our sway over the administration to shift Biden’s policies leftward on key issues such as healthcare, the economy and perhaps most pressing: climate change.
Climate change is one of the greatest threats we face not only as Americans, but also as global citizens. We have already experienced many of climate change’s disastrous effects, including heat waves, forest fires and rising sea levels. But the worst is yet to come.
Extreme weather and disasters will only worsen and jeopardize clean water, create hazardous spills and further endanger our health and lives. Whether or not these changes continue to destroy our environment depends on the extent to which we continue emitting greenhouse gases and pursuing deleterious environmental policies. Our environment’s worsening state reflects our poor treatment of the Earth and we must act swiftly to mitigate the impact of our failures. As such, it is imperative that our next president acknowledges climate change as a serious threat and proactively establishes clean energy.
On July 14, Biden unveiled a $2 trillion climate change plan in a compelling demonstration of why he deserves progressives’ support. His framework calls for the U.S. to achieve a 100% clean-energy economy with net-zero emissions no later than 2050. This is to be accomplished through a series of executive orders and legislative packages. In addition, the plan would force the transportation industry to curb greenhouse gases, rejoin the Paris climate agreement and work toward environmental justice for communities of color.
Admittedly, Biden’s proposal fails to go as far as Sanders’ Green New Deal. Critics should certainly voice their opinions and demand that Biden set more ambitious goals for tackling climate change, such as a total ban on fracking. However, his work with progressives, as well as his well-developed climate change plan, should encourage the left to support him anyway.
In stark contrast, Biden’s opponent, and voters’ only real alternative, has consistently caused far-reaching damage through debunking climate change. President Donald Trump has repeatedly failed to acknowledge climate change as a real threat, instead referring to it as a “hoax” and pulling the U.S. out of the Paris accord. Under his administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has referred fewer criminal anti-pollution cases to the Department of Justice than it has in 30 years. He enables environmental damage and encourages his followers to minimize the threat of climate change. Trump’s dismissal thereof poses one of the greatest threats our nation has ever faced. For the sake of the United States and the world, we must evict him from office.
The urgency of climate change demands urgent action, and a Biden presidency will pave the way for exactly that. As such, I encourage progressive voters to vote for Biden despite their qualms regarding his stances on other issues. At the very least, electing him would ensure that we, as a nation, can take important steps to combat climate change. Biden’s plan regarding climate change leaves me optimistic that he will continue listening to progressive voices and follow through with his plans for sharp, necessary action.
Brammhi Balarajan (23C) is from Las Vegas, Nevada.