Status quo politics in Washington won't cut it on climate change
Bradley Blankenship
A view of the American River at Discovery Park during a heatwave in Sacramento, California, U.S., June 28, 2021. /VCG

A view of the American River at Discovery Park during a heatwave in Sacramento, California, U.S., June 28, 2021. /VCG

Editor's note: Bradley Blankenship is a Prague-based American journalist, political analyst and freelance reporter. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN. 

Parts of the Pacific Northwest in North America have recently reported record temperatures that have melted powerlines, buckled roads and led to soaring death rates and natural disasters. For example, it was reported at the end of June in the Canadian province of British Columbia that average deaths doubled while temperatures reached a blistering 46.6°C (115.88°F), just days later triggering an uncontrolled wildfire that forced residents of a small town to flee their homes.  

Across the border in the United States, places like Portland and Seattle experienced similar situations as basic infrastructure collapsed and residents, who mostly don't have air conditioning, were scorched by the blistering heat. The intense heat is reportedly exacerbating a dry cycle ahead of a fire season that is, according to a report by the National Interagency Fire Center, expected to see "significant fire potential that is above average into September before returning to normal by October."  

This forecast follows in 2020 what was one of the most destructive wildfire seasons on record for the states of Oregon, Washington and California. At least 33 people died, thousands of homes were destroyed and, in Oregon alone, 1,000,000 acres of land (about 10 percent of the state's area) were burned.  

As the richest and most influential country in the world, the U.S. must lead by example in the fight against climate change and follow the science, which is clear-cut in saying that we must act now to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. This is why the new infrastructure deal working its way through Congress, brokered with bipartisan support, won't cut it and neither will the status quo foreign policy. President Joe Biden must make good on his promised climate initiatives in order to put the U.S. on the correct path. 

Sunbathers on a roof during a heatwave in New York, U.S., June 30, 2021. /VCG

Sunbathers on a roof during a heatwave in New York, U.S., June 30, 2021. /VCG

According to the details of the $973 billion bipartisan infrastructure deal, money will go toward building a national network of electric vehicle charging stations, purchasing thousands of electric buses and upgrading the electrical grid. It also includes funds for improving water systems and other infrastructure buckling under pressure from climate change.  

At the same time, key provisions were cut out such as Biden's commitment to making electricity carbon-free by 2035, as well as tax incentives for clean energy and carbon capture technology, energy upgrades for buildings, environmental justice spending and the creation of a national Civilian Climate Corps.  

While certainly better than nothing, moving forward with this deal in order to appease the climate-change-denying Republican Party would be a missed opportunity. With the effects of climate change not in the distant future but the lived reality of virtually every American, a policy window has opened up that should not be squandered. Biden and Democrats should put their heads together and pass a Democrats-only bill through the budget reconciliation process in order to preserve these crucial elements.  

At the same time, U.S. foreign policy is holding up America's efforts to act on climate change. Though members of the Democratic Party on Biden's left flank certainly support the infrastructure bill and could potentially tank any bipartisan deal without their inclusion, still they believe in protectionist trade policies that will make global cooperation more difficult. For example, even progressive Democrats are falling for the U.S. ban on some Chinese solar firms over bogus claims of "human rights abuses."  

Instead, the U.S. should not use the powers of the federal government to put its own companies ahead of competitors. This could create supply chain problems and other market disruptions that could inevitably work against the global objective of fighting climate change. The U.S. should seek multilateral solutions on this issue that help create a united front – and not just step up when it becomes advantageous to promoting the interests of American capitalism dressed up as support for American workers. 

Decades of status quo politics, i.e. fiscal conservatism and hawkishness, have led to the present climate catastrophe. That very same politics, however watered down, will not be able to put the U.S. or the world on the right path for climate action. As people die and infrastructure collapses from what appears to be year-after-year of record-setting weather events and natural disasters, it has become clearer than ever that what has to change is everything.  

Both domestically and internationally, climate action has to be a clear priority for the Biden administration at any cost.  

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