Now that Bernie Sanders has suspended his run for President Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee. But not so fast. Sanders' voters are going to support Biden, when he earns it. Sanders blazed new trails of climate leadership, making it compulsory to have multi-billion dollar plans to decarbonize by 2050. He defined the terms of the climate change debate by relentlessly insisting that his fellow candidates understand the meaning of an existential threat and take appropriate action. Biden must follow Sanders' example, not just for Sander's voters, but for humanity itself.
A classic exchange during the last primary debate shows the gulf between lip service and true command of the issue, Sanders challenged Biden's climate leadership. "I'm talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they're going to stop destroying the planet," Sanders said. Biden responded, "So am I." Sanders pressed him, "Well, I'm not sure your proposal does that." He said, instead of spending 1.8 trillion on weapons to kill each other, let's fight our common enemy, which is climate change.
Sure Joe Biden advocates for action on climate change, but not as an urgent, top priority issue. He seems satisfied with half measures like his promise to recommit to the Paris Climate Agreement, a necessary, but insufficient idea. That approach will not suffice for Sanders' voters. Biden must become the Climate-Commander-in-Chief.
Excessive CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels is driving up the average global temperature which is driving deadly, destructive weather extremes of all sorts. Joe Biden's climate plan currently calls for a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, likely two decades too late. He needs to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2030, as Bernie Sanders did.
In order to slow climate change, America must get off fossil fuels. Biden signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, but subsequently violated it by attending a fundraiser co-hosted by Western LNG's co-founder Andrew Goldman, demonstrating a weak commitment, and an affinity for the fossil fuel industry and their money. You can't fake your way off of fossil fuels, you can't say one thing and do another and your commitment can't waiver.
By contrast, Sanders was always ready to challenge the powerful fossil fuel industry. In the last primary debate where Sanders and Biden went mano e mano, Sanders said, "Look, in terms of the fossil fuel industry, these guys have been lying," Sanders said, "They've been lying for years like the tobacco industry lied 50 years ago. 'Oh we don't know if, if fossil fuels, if oil, if carbon emissions, are causing climate change.' They knew! ExxonMobil knew. They lied. In fact, I think they should be held criminally accountable."
Biden supports a fee on carbon pollution, but needs to prioritize and publicly advocate for a fee on fossil fuels to dramatically reduce and ultimately eliminate the emission of carbon dioxide from those sources. Such a fee should set an ambitious, concrete goal for emission reductions that is adequate to slow climate change and its impacts. The fee itself, the price per ton of carbon dioxide, paid by the polluter, likely needs to start in the triple digits and rise from there, in order to get the job done.
At Mauna Loa, where the government tracks atmospheric carbon dioxide, it currently measures 414.5 parts per million (ppm). Carbon dioxide exceeded 400ppm for the first time in 3-5 million years, the first time in human history in 2014. In his paper, "Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Society Aim," former NASA Climate Scientist Dr. James Hansen said, "The safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350ppm."
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