Updated: Jun 22
In January 2021, Democrats took control of both Senate seats in the Georgia runoff elections. This means that Democrats were now in control of the Senate, along with the House of Representatives and the White House. Now could begin the most ambitious environmental protection plan in the nation’s history. But will it be enough to stop humanity’s course toward collapse?
It is often argued that the United States of America is the leader of the free world. Even after Donald Trump’s atrocious environmental policy, the United States has rapidly become the leader in environmental protection and green technology. Many more bills passed through Congress to aid Joe Biden’s environmental policy with a federal-level trifecta; with a Republican-controlled Senate, Mitch McConnell would have blocked almost every bill that attempted to help the environment. Our transition away from fossil fuels and environmental destruction would have been severely stunted. What did Biden accomplish now that his path was clear? Although this is not a complete list, it covers some of the major undertakings of the Biden administration.
Let’s look at Joe Biden’s climate plan:
1. Have a net-zero emissions country by 2050.
To achieve this, 100% clean energy will be required. The President was able to use executive orders, which bypassed Congress, to quickly get things done. Through Congress, Biden increased investment in clean energy by many times over when compared to the Trump Administration. Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill passed over half a trillion dollars for climate-related initiatives, putting America on the path to cutting emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Furthermore, more funding was given to learn more about the climate. This will be essential to learning the best way to support the environment. Also, money will be invested in innovation and deploying these innovations across the world. This is arguably the most important part of his plan. Innovating green technology can dramatically decrease the prices of the technology, and poorer nations will have better access to these cheap innovations. Vestas, as I explained in my last blog, is leading the way in building more wind turbines across the globe, avoiding the emission of more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Every single country must help fight climate change, and the world economy will be stimulated. Tens of millions of jobs could be created.
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2. Achieved more ambitious climate targets.
As President, Joe Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement on the first day of his term in office. Furthermore, he has pressured other countries to increase their climate targets. He wants countries to be transparent about these commitments, and to enforce the laws that contribute to the climate targets. Since the United States is arguably the most powerful country on the planet, Biden used this strength quite effectively to prevent other nations from evading the goals. The U.S. could put a tax on certain imports, or stop trading with countries altogether. Most countries will likely agree to these climate commitments, partially because Joe Biden isn’t tweeting attacks at them like Donald Trump; many countries have already strengthened their climate targets since Biden took office. We have rebuilt many of our foreign relationships since Donald Trump left office.
3. Stopped many polluters from abusing their power.
Joe Biden has stopped many polluters from sabotaging our environment and contaminating the United States’ land, water, and air, and is working on stopping the rest. According to NPR, over 1,000 train derailments happen every year. The East Palestine train derailment released so many chemicals, like vinyl chloride, in such high quantities that it was seen from space and frightened the entire nation. The Biden administration is now strengthening regulations to prevent something like this from happening again. His administration will also stop companies from “conceal[ing] information regarding potential environmental and health risks,” much like how Exxon helped spread climate change denial worldwide. They also knew about the threat of climate change 50 years ago. There will be no more avoiding the climate crisis by big companies.
While this is just a broad overview of his climate plan (there are more specific plans here), it shows that he will, and already has, fight for the environment with everything he’s got. He switched out the coal-loving administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency for an environmentally-conscious advocate. The Senate has appointed over a hundred lifetime judges that will protect the environment for decades. Even if Joe Biden isn’t reelected in 2024 (or another Democrat if Biden doesn’t run), there will be a long-lasting impact on our Earth.
Coal Mines and Coal Plants
An example of a permanent impact that President Biden will have on the Earth is the shutting down of all coal mines and coal plants in the United States by the year 2035. There are many types of coal mines, and they all damage the environment. The most dangerous one is called mountaintop removal. They detonate explosives to break up the rocks on a mountain. Then, they remove the excess rocks and dump them in the valleys, blocking streams and contaminating the water supply.
Another type of coal mining requires the entire landscape to be dug up to reach the seams of coal. Bucket-wheel excavators can remove up to 240,000 tons of rock a day, so there is no argument that this is acceptable for the environment.
A third type of coal mining is underground coal mines. Although there is no noticeable effect on the surface, it can still cause damage to the environment. Water can leach through the mine and enter a pool of groundwater, making it acidic and polluted. If the water is released onto the surface through an aquifer, then the local ecosystem will suffer catastrophic consequences. Many cities and countries depend on groundwater for survival, too. Coal mining is too treacherous, and should not be done. Even with technological advances to make coal mining safer, there is still too much room for an ecological catastrophe.
In addition to coal mining, the emissions from burning coal are disastrous. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, burning coal releases sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, carbon dioxide, mercury and other heavy metals, and fly ash and bottom ash. These emissions can cause acid rain, respiratory illnesses, climate change, and neurological and developmental impairment.
Joe Biden and Democrats can shut down all coal mines and coal plants in the country, but it won’t be enough unless done on a global scale. Developing countries keep on increasing the amount of coal they burn. China and India are of major concern. They burn so much coal that entire cities are engulfed in smog for months on end. This smog travels across the Pacific Ocean and into North America. So what can the world do to stop countries from incinerating coal? Make coal economically unfeasible. If the world can advance renewable technology and make renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels, then the world will happily agree to use renewable energy. Climate change will slow down, ecosystems can return to somewhat normalcy, and millions of lives will be saved by avoiding respiratory illnesses. This is where the Biden administration comes into play. They are putting billions of dollars into making renewable energy cheaper, which is speeding up coal’s demise.
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One Trillion Trees
According to researchers, planting trees is the best solution to stop climate change and save our environment. There is a global effort to plant a trillion trees that will remove most of our carbon emissions since the Industrial Revolution. Donald Trump - yes, the “climate change is a hoax” guy - signed the pledge to plant one trillion trees. If Trump can pledge it, other countries can do it, too. But is it realistic to plant a trillion trees? The answer is yes because it is by far the cheapest option to stop climate change. It can also revitalize the economy because of new jobs and the strengthening of the tourism industry.
People can donate to tree-planting organizations, or plant trees themselves. But the easiest, cost-free way to plant trees is to use the Ecosia search engine, which we talked about in our last blog. They are a non-profit search engine that donates half of its revenue and 80% of its profits to tree-planting efforts. One tree is planted for every 45 searches made, with the average person planting twenty-five trees a year. So far, they have planted over 170 million trees by investing 36 million euros, and plant an additional tree every 1.3 seconds. This number increased from 0.8 seconds, though, because the COVID-19 pandemic made their revenues fall. They are partnered with Treecard, a debit card company that plants 25,000 trees a day and is growing exponentially. Ecosia is also very transparent, as they show their monthly financial reports. Ecosia has planted trees in 33 different countries and 13,000 planting sites, bringing back the natural landscape and saving endangered species. They also fund thousands of jobs and help provide families with a steady source of income. If they were as big as Google, they could be planting as many as 50 billion trees a year. They will be one of the companies that change the world for the better.
A Global Effort
Every country needs to join the effort. Some countries will slow down our progress, like Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro, the former President of Brazil, did very little to help the environment. In 2019, he refused help from other countries to put out the fires that were devastating the Amazon Rainforest. Deforestation surged under his watch, but he encouraged it. China also seems reluctant to make progress toward helping the environment. If countries impose taxes or stop buying things from a country altogether, then they will be forced to commit to an environmental protection plan. Joe Biden and the Democrats can lead the world in environmental protection. Every group needs a leader, and the United States is that leader. The bills the U.S. passes will affect the whole world. We can be the example that other countries look to when they talk about the environment. Alone, we will not save the Earth. Together, we can.
So many environmentalists say that we are doomed and that we are on an inevitable path toward a catastrophic ecosystem collapse. I do not believe this. I believe that we will find solutions that work, and implement them on the large scale that we need. Planting a trillion trees is possible, and can limit the amount of harm humans cause to the planet. But the biggest thing that I am worried about is ocean acidification. With so much carbon dioxide being released into Earth’s atmosphere, the ocean is becoming increasingly acidic. This acidic ocean environment will cause many marine species to die off, just like mussels have been. The lower pH dissolves their shells, making it much more difficult to survive.
If the bottom of the marine food chain dies off, the rest of the marine food chain will die off. With phytoplankton dying off, the ocean will no longer be a carbon sink. The atmosphere’s carbon dioxide levels will increase more rapidly, leading to acid rain and climate change. This will affect almost every single organism on the planet. A little damage to a small species can cause a domino effect and cause mass extinction. But I still believe that humanity can overcome this. We always persevere. If we want to save the Earth, we need to do it together.
We at Bryotic Worlds have a goal of planting 1 million trees so that we can prevent our Earth from dying. Together, we can have a huge impact. Join us on our mission!