climate change

Opinion: US 2020 Election: Biden must keep his focus on the climate

Photo credit: Reuters / Fred Greaves.

By Anders Lorenzen

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, has won widespread support recently for adopting a more ambitious approach to climate change policy. But does the veteran politician really understand what it takes to be a climate leader?

He frequently uses terms like `the climate crisis` and has indeed adopted serious climate policies, but one can question if he actually understands the implications of what it means? 

When the disastrous Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana becoming the worst ever storm to hit the state, none of the messages sent out by the presidential hopeful factored in climate change. 

Talk like a climate leader

This is a worry. A climate leader would need to understand the link between climate change and extreme weather and must have a moral duty to communicate it. 

It is of course fully understandable that Biden would want to create a positive vision for his campaign. But his climate strategy can’t be focused just on green jobs and lifting the US out of the coronavirus pandemic. A progressive US president who understands the climate crisis must always call out climate change when it strikes.  Obama understood that and did so frequently.

Biden and his campaign team have worked hard on winning support from the radical left and young people. But if he wants to keep that vital support and defeat Trump in November then he must start talking like a climate leader when extreme storms and heatwaves occur.

The timing is all wrong

One can also question the timing as well as the objective when he recently said that he would not want to ban fracking, which many climate activists demand. And such a statement surely can’t be supported by the left-winger Bernie Sanders, who has given Biden his support after being defeated by him in the primaries. Such statements will only sow more doubts among climate activists when deciding if they can bring themselves to vote for Biden.

This is an important election and more is at stake than ever before. The climate just can’t handle another four years of Trump while confronting and preparing for pending disastrous events, regulating the fossil fuel industry and advancing the clean energy sector.

Right now Biden’s campaign team must work extremely hard to win over climate activists, and sowing more doubts is counterproductive. Biden must be more pragmatic. He must realise that statements in support of fracking are divisive and that they show a lack of understanding of concerns about the environmental damage caused by the shale gas industry, and its political implications. We just can’t afford that the climate vote is split between Biden and a third-party candidate. Even a tiny split could mean another four years of Trump.

As you read this, yet another climate-induced extreme weather event is unfolding in the US, an extreme Californian heatwave and wildfires. And with two months left of the hurricane season, the chances are that much more extreme weather events still are to come before the election. Will Biden use this as an opportunity to talk about the link between extreme weather and climate change, rather than continuing to talk about climate change as a jobs opportunity? The US needs a president who does both.

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