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Biden’s Climate Plan: It’s Too Late for Gradualism

Biden’s Climate Plan: It’s Too Late for Gradualism

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

President Biden gave us his climate plan on March 31. It was buried inside his American Jobs Plan. The 12,000-word Fact Sheet about it released by the White House hardly acknowledges the climate emergency. The plan is presented as a jobs through infrastructure program.

The climate emergency demands a radical and rapid decarbonization of the economy with numerical goals and timetables to transform all productive sectors, not only power production (27% of carbon emissions), but also transportation (28%), manufacturing (22%), buildings (12%), and agriculture (10%). That emergency transformation can only be met by an ecosocialist approach using public enterprise and planning.

Instead, Biden’s plan emphasizes corporate welfare: subsidies and tax incentives for clean energy that will take uncertain effect at a leisurely pace in the markets. Moreover, it does nothing to stop more oil and gas fracking and pipelines for more gas-fired power plants, or to shut down coal-fired power plants. Without out directly saying so, it is a plan to burn fossil fuels for decades to come.

The scale of spending falls pathetically short of what is needed to decarbonize the economy. An effective plan would not only reach zero emissions on a fast timeline. It would also move quickly toward negative emissions, drawing carbon out of the atmosphere because we are already at a carbon level that is triggering dangerous climate change.

Climate Emergency

It’s too late for gradualism. We must at least aim for the “initial target” of 350 ppm (350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) that was proposed 13 years ago by climate scientists James Hansen and colleagues in a 2008 study. Even in that research report Hansen et al. concluded that 300-325 ppm “may be needed to restore sea ice to its area of 25 years ago.”

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