Biden’s biggest challenge: climate change

Unlike Trump, who called climate change a hoax, Biden calls it an existential threat to the planet. 

On his first day in office, Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, an international treaty aimed at cutting greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. That’s just a first step, the Biden campaign said. The agreement’s pledges are voluntary, unenforceable and, experts say, not aggressive enough to curb global temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels. 

What is more important to climate watchers: The policies Biden intends to adopt.

Among them is Biden’s day one move to restore a working group tasked with establishing the full economic, climate, health and environmental justice costs of greenhouse gas pollution. 

In a list posted just before his inauguration, Biden specifically tasked his agencies with reviewing an 11th-hour rule restricting regulation of greenhouse gas emissions to only the industrial plants and other sources that exceed 3% of the nation’s total emissions. That would block regulation of climate warming pollution from a range of industries, including oil and gas, according to a California lawsuit

The courts have helped kickstart some of the Biden administration’s environmental moves. Just before the inauguration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to gut the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut about a third of climate-warming pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants by 2030. 

California has its own suite of policies aimed at greening the grid, and the state met the requirements of the Obama administration’s clean power plan more than 15 years early. But it also has a front-row seat to the effects of climate change, from record temperatures and rampant wildfires to rising seas, which is why the state joined in suing the federal government over the rollback and weaker replacement.