Opinion: We need to do more about climate change before it is too late

Raghav Raj | Staff Writer

 On April 31, President Joe Biden unveiled new measures to overhaul and upgrade American infrastructure, proclaiming his plan “a once-in-a-generation investment in America.” Officially titled the American Jobs Plan, the initiative is the largest presidential effort to fight climate change ever, dwarfing former President Barack Obama’s 2009 Stimulus bill which allotted a comparatively paltry $90 billion to clean energy investments. The bill clocks in at $2 trillion over the next decade, with billions of those dollars going into improvements in things like public transport, severe weather services, the electrical grid, and climate research.

On the surface, this seems like a landmark piece of legislation (and the Biden administration is all too eager to argue that it is), but that assertion belies a simple, yet devastating fact: this effort is not nearly large enough to address the grand existential threat that climate change presents.

For starters, the bill doesn’t pass the basic spending requirements put forth by climate scientists to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, a goal that most climate scientists deem essential for preventing the most catastrophic effects of global warming. While the bill spreads $2 trillion out over the next ten years, most estimates (specifically, ones from economists at the New Climate Economy and The Roosevelt Institute) demand — at the bare minimum, no less — a trillion dollars per year for full decarbonization.

As Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times puts it, “Biden’s proposal is just a fifth of what [climate economists] estimate is the minimum amount that the government needs to spend to stave off the worst projected dangers of a warming climate; at the high end of spending projections, it’s only an eighth.”

Not just that — Biden’s proposal falls short of even his own campaign promises. As many climate activists — from Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal, to the Sunrise Movement — pointed out, Biden had campaigned on a $2 trillion ‘accelerated investment’ to address climate change over a four-year period. Considering that even $500 billion a year doesn’t reach the low end of what climate economists suggest is necessary to combat climate change (that low end, for reference, clocks in at $980 billion according to a 2019 BloombergNEF study), this makes the American Jobs Plan feel like even more of a disappointment, one that doesn’t rise up to the challenge of our times.

But, then again, we have to ask ourselves this question: could we have ever counted on Joe Biden to deliver the change we need to save the planet? A man who ardently refuses to ban fracking, which is ridiculously harmful to the environment while disproportionately hurting people of color? A man who chose Cedric Richmond, a known fossil fuel industry ally, as his climate liaison? A man whose climate policy essentially boiled down to rejoining the Paris Agreement, which most scientists deem ineffective at limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 or 2 degrees C?

Quite simply, we cannot rely on Joe Biden for climate justice. He is a continuation of the capitalist status quo that prioritizes profit over the environment, and his policies will never bring us to the change we need to ensure the existence of our planet. Instead of leaving our fate in the hands of politicians who don’t care about us, we must band together, organize, and work collectively for the good of the Earth. It’s the only way that change will come.