President Joe Biden announced action on what he calls a climate emergency Wednesday, July 20. But the measures fell far short of fulfilling the list of progressive demands, and the president stopped just shy of actually declaring an emergency. Despite the loudest voices on the left screaming for more, recent polling shows that a mere 1% of total voters – just 3% of Democrats and 3% of voters aged 18-30 – see climate as the most important issue today. Could it be that Biden isn’t quite as out of touch with the common man as many believe?
The Undeclared Climate Emergency
“Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world,” Biden said Wednesday. “This is an emergency, an emergency, and I will look at it that way.” With words like this, one might expect a declaration of emergency, followed by some bold executive action that stretches the bounds of the president’s power. That’s precisely what progressives and Democrat lawmakers wanted. Instead, the commander-in-chief announced a comparatively modest list of orders.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is directing money toward shoring up infrastructure against heat waves, drought, hurricanes, and the like, while the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is issuing guidance for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Department of the Interior is exploring wind energy in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be conducting heat-related inspections and developing standards to protect workers from overly hot conditions whenever the heat index is 80 degrees or higher.
The Loudest Voices on the Left
As reported by the Washington Times, the left has a “laundry list” of demands – the first of which was an official declaration under the National Emergencies Act. So far, at least, that hasn’t come. Activists and politicians also pushed for Biden to direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to get involved in local and state lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry, invoke the Defense Production Act and apply American manufacturing might to renewable energy technology, end domestic and international federal subsidies on fossil fuels, restrict imports, and ban exports. They wanted a fully electric USPS fleet, stricter vehicle emissions standards, and an end to oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters.
“We’re urging the administration to do things that it can do administratively,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “and we’re going to look at everything that we can do.” Thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) refusal to back any increase in taxation or green spending, at least until inflation is no longer a concern, there seems to be very little congressional Democrats can do.
“If President Biden was ever serious about being a climate president, this is his last chance,” said Kat Maier, national coordinator for Fridays for Future, an international climate group founded by Greta Thunberg. “Everyone from Republicans to Democrats, institutions to individuals, has shown their hand, and we know who stands on the side of climate action. There’s nothing to wait for anymore, no compromises to make anymore. It’s time for the bold action.”
If Wednesday’s announcement was indeed Biden’s “put up or shut up” moment, his last big shot at being remembered, as Maier put it, as a “climate president,” it was a bit underwhelming. Rather than the bold action demanded by the loudest voices on the left, it came across more like his previous executive actions on this matter – that is to say, more virtue signaling than actual attempt at effecting change.
The Narrative Must Go On
In early July, The New York Times and Siena College asked in a survey how many think climate is the most important problem facing the country. Just 1% of total respondents did – and that isn’t due to an overwhelming number of Republicans answering the poll. Even amongst Democrats, only 3% ranked climate change as the top issue.
Despite the claims that the world is burning up and that the deadline to save ourselves is drawing nigh, the reality is that actual life-altering crises – record-high inflation and soaring fuel prices, for example – tend to strip away the ideological hyperbole for most people. Even the elite, living in their mansions and jetting around the world as the middle class become poor and the poor begin to lose it all, clearly don’t believe in the so-called climate emergency.
When the loudest environmental advocates are the ones with the biggest carbon footprints, it becomes evident the green agenda exists not to save the world but to preserve their power. Left-wing politicians aren’t worried about some crisis of climate change – but they are terrified of the very real electoral emergency looming over them as the midterms approach. And this puts Biden in a precarious position. The president and the party are too invested in climate change and a green agenda to do anything short of advance – yet Congress has failed to deliver a significant legislative win. Even though none but a few are buying it, the narrative must go on. At this point, it may be all they have left.