Fickle Hill on December 29, 2020. | Photo by Elliott Portillo

Does a new presidency bring new environmental hope?

What a new presidency plans to help the fight against climate change

A new presidency brings new beginnings, but what does that mean for the environment?

Professor Nicola Walters has taught environmental policies for the last three semesters at HSU.

“Right now the big focus is on the executive orders that have been signed in addition to Biden announcing our rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement,” Walters said.

When Biden and Harris ran for the presidency against former President Donald Trump, they made clear that Biden had a plan for the environment with the Biden Plan.

Biden’s official website expressed what the plan entails, similar to the Green New Deal.

The Biden Plan includes zero emissions by 2050, working with the world toward change, confronting polluters who harm communities of low income or of color, and leave no workers behind.

Not only that, but within his first few days of presidency he also revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which is a big deal for environmentalists. This was the beginning of efforts made toward climate change.

“We’re past the tipping point for taking care of a lot of our habitats and thinking about what would actually maintain the survival for humans on this planet,” Walters said.

Biden also plans to reverse actions President Trump made against the environment regulations, including to “place a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” according to NPR.

But the Biden and Harris team have made very clear they won’t be ending or putting a ban on fracking, something that progressives have been pushing for.

Biden has made the announcement that by 2050, his zero emission plan will have led the U.S to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and reach net-zero emissions, a very difficult task as is. But according to UN climate data the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit requires a faster curb in emissions with 45% cut within the decade. Biden also now has control of large polluters like the military, policy toward large corporations, and more which all have large impacts on the environment as well. Will his plan be enough?

“If we’re thinking about environmentalism on a global level, every single step that is taken to protect an animal species or to protect a habitat is therefore connected to our global health and is necessary at this point if we have any hope at all of reversing the trends of global greenhouse emissions, of the climate change that we are now experiencing at such a catastrophic level,” Walters said.

“One thing that is central to our area is the removal of the northern spotted owl from the endangered species list,” Walters said about President Trump’s actions of removing 3.4 million acres of land from the federal protections.

With new plans for the environment, it’s important to hold the new team accountable.

“I don’t think [Biden is] as environmentally conscious as more far left or more liberal leaning people would like him to be,” Aaron Larkins, second year political science major, said.

Like Walters, Larkins believes action is critical, but just our leaders won’t be enough.

“We only get one Earth, we only get one shot at keeping the planet healthy,” Larkins said. “The more we start killing off plants and animals, I mean it’s only so long before we’re the only things left, or we’re not even left.”

While a new presidency brings new expectations and hope, it’s important to remember they are no cure all.

“I believe that it’s really important that we not get too fixated on what Biden and Harris are going to do on a federal level,” Walters said. “We have to be involved with that on the state and local level so it’s not just one person attempting to change the shape of environment policy but rather we have investment and involvement all the way down to our local levels.”

Like Walters said, we cannot just depend on a team of people to create a global change. Some believe it’s a step in the right direction, others believe it’s not enough. So what are students at Humboldt State to do? Walters believes it’s HSU’s job to educate and make the students aware.

“A lot of times it’s important that we don’t allow us to be sort of enticed by the dream of what this administration will deliver to us but make sure we aren’t masking the realities of what’s happening on the ground,” Walters said.

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