Climate Day was a great day for science in America, underscoring that science was no longer a dirty word. “We can’t wait any longer. We see it with our own eyes, we feel it. We know it in our bones. And it’s time to act,” President Biden said Wednesday as he signed a series of Executive Orders.
John Kerry and Gina McCarthy addressed the press to unveil the new administration’s radically different approach from the previous four years. McCarthy outlined what she called the “most ambitious climate agenda,” adding, “We don’t have a minute to lose.” It was an apparent reference to the rollbacks of the preceding administration. McCarthy spoke about restoring American leadership and a “whole of government approach.” She laid out a set of parameters that would center informational evidence at the top and make the climate crisis central to federal agencies, national security, and the American domestic and international agendas.
Perhaps we have finally reached a point where a combination of factors will move the needle.
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication issued a report this month on Politics and Global Warming. The survey, conducted after the November 2020 election, showed that registered American voters are looking for systemic change:
- 74 percent support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.
- 82 percent support funding more research into renewable energy sources.
- 44 percent support requiring that, by 2030, all new cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in the U.S. are electric vehicles.
- 66 percent support requiring electric utilities to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by the year 2035.
- 66 percent support eliminating all carbon pollution created by coal, oil, and natural gas from the U.S. economy by 2050.
- 85 percent support re-establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps, which would employ workers to protect natural ecosystems, plant trees in rural and urban areas, and restore the soil on farmlands.
- 83 percent support creating a jobs program that would hire unemployed oil and gas workers to safely close down thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells, a source of water and methane pollution.
- 68 percent support increasing federal funding to low-income communities and communities of color disproportionally harmed by air and water pollution.
- 78 percent support schools teaching children the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming.
- Half or more say citizens (63 percent), the Republican Party (62 percent), the U.S. Congress (62 percent), local government officials (56 percent), the Democratic Party (56 percent), their governor (55 percent), the media (50 percent), and they themselves (50 percent) should do more to address global warming.
Senator Ted Cruz may sniff at the Paris Accords, but 75 percent of those polled supported American participation in the Paris Climate Agreement.
The activism of Greta Thunberg may have precipitated a ground shift. She was recently interviewed on MSNBC, along with Professor Michael Mann. Thunberg’s message to Biden was, “Act in line with the science.” Although she acknowledged that she was relieved by the new American leadership and that the “odds were now better,” she emphasized, “That doesn’t mean we can relax.” Thunberg spoke about treating the situation on the ground as a “crisis,” and advocated for individuals to “spread awareness.”
Ironically, another paper by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication delved into how Thunberg has become a lightning rod for others through her clarion call for “inter-generational” justice. Although there are other young activists from different backgrounds and experiences, the Yale social psychology paper, The Greta Thunberg Effect, delves into her particular role in impacting social groups.
The analysis found that people who have a greater awareness of Thunberg also have a clearer sense that by working in tandem with others who share their views, they can “reduce global warming.” The term used used is, “collective efficacy.”
Undoubtedly, the new Biden government has revived hope of gaining traction. Every federal agency will be required to factor climate into their decision-making process in his “all of government approach.” President Biden has made the challenge a “national security priority.” There will be a Climate Leaders’ Summit, which will take place on April 22, Earth Day.
In advance of the old Republican talking points equating environmental action with economic losses, President Biden has made a point of branding his initiatives as building jobs for the future. He also made it clear that the cost of inaction is greater, as evidenced by the billions of dollars spent after the California wildfires and Category 5 hurricanes.
It’s a new day when you hear the phrase “environmentally induced asthma in children” coming from the White House.
On the road to restoring American leadership, Kerry noted, “The world will measure us by what we can do at home.” He also stressed, “The stakes couldn’t be any higher.”
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