Climate change rears its ugly head, but Biden steps up to fight it
Last week, there was good news and bad news on the climate front.
The good news was that President Biden reinstated the United States as a member in good standing with the rest of the world in the Paris Accords.
The bad news was terrible. Climate change reared its ugly head when winter’s wrath brought death and distress to Texas. The crisis exposed the tragic reality of climate change. Extreme winter weather created an overpowering demand on an outmoded energy grid. Friday Biden will be in the Lone Star state to witness the carnage from climate change.
Texans died while their governor lied. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said the breakdown of clean energy sources caused the outages. The main culprit, however, was failure of the natural gas system which is a major source of power in the state.
The weather in Texas was frightful but in Cancun, it was warm and delightful. In the middle of the devastating climate crisis, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) fled while Texans froze. He traveled South of the border to Mexico while many Texans battled the elements without heat in their homes and with spoiled food in their refrigerators.
His trip dramatized his indifference to his constituents and to the climate threat that challenges the health, wealth and wellbeing of all Americans. Adding insult to the senator’s self-inflicted injury, the sponsor of the Green New Deal and a frequent Cruz sparring partner, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y,) raised millions of dollars in relief for beleaguered Texans.
It’s too early to tell whether or not Cruz’s inattention to the crisis will freeze his political ambitions when he’s up for reelection or might run for president in 2024. But he could be cruising for a bruising in either case.
Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., it’s clear sailing and blue skies so far for Biden. But he must navigate the rocky shoals obscured by dark clouds to move forward.
The early polling returns are encouraging. Biden’s average approval score is 54 percent positive and only 38 percent negative. His performance score is pure gold in a sharply divided nation. Most Americans are breathing a collective sigh of relief after four years of daily drama and trauma under President Trump.
In office only a month, the new president has been a warrior in the fight against the climate crisis.
Not only did he rejoin the Paris Agreement, but he has issued executive orders to stop the Keystone Pipeline XL project and to scale back oil drilling on federal land in Alaska.
The new president has also installed two powerful officials, former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, as senior White House advisers to ensure that there is an environmental advocate in debates on all federal policy.
Once he’s picked the low hanging fruit, Biden must start the heavy lifting. Now, he must make his own mark and move forward instead of simply reversing Trump actions.
Advancing the environmental action during his presidency starts with his $2 trillion Build Back America infrastructure package, which he proposed last year during his presidential campaign.
He has shied away from the Green New Deal label, but his proposal incorporates the general concept of radically changing the transportation and energy systems to make them environmentally friendly and to create green jobs.
Biden can probably pass the American Rescue Plan for pandemic and economic relief with Democratic votes in the Senate through the reconciliation process. But then he will need 60 votes and GOP support to avoid a filibuster for his Build Back America plan.
Earlier this month, Biden invited a bipartisan group of senators to the White House to discuss the proposal. Spending a couple of trillion dollars after spending $1.9 trillion on pandemic relief will be a tough sell to Republicans who have suddenly become born again fiscal conservatives after they helped Trump run up big budget deficits.
But Biden will push the need to stimulate a sluggish economy. There will be incentives to support the plan for Senate Republicans. There will be much money for economic development and lots of new jobs in red states.
The mess in Texas should be an urgent wake up call to all Americans, especially GOP senators. The climate crisis brings ice storms, forest fires, floods and other natural disasters. Outmoded energy and transportation systems and extreme weather are a toxic brew bound to bring even more trouble to Americans already battered by the pandemic and a shaky economy.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.