With former Vice President Joe Biden leading in the polls and Democratic control of the Senate possible, the United States may soon have the chance, for the first time in more than a decade, to enact urgently needed legislation to address global climate change—but only if Democrats don’t repeat the mistakes they made at the start of the Obama administration.
In June 2009, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a comprehensive bill to stave off the worst effects of climate change. The landmark legislation died in the United States Senate, however, even though President Barack Obama supported climate action and Democrats controlled the Senate with a filibuster-proof majority. Other major issues took precedence: securing a stimulus package to address the recession, passing the Affordable Care Act, and enacting the Dodd-Frank financial reform and consumer-protection law.
As a result, the United States scuttled its best chance to prevent the havoc of climate disruption. In the ensuing decade, the world hurtled at breakneck speed toward the precipice of climate disaster. The most optimistic scenario now is that we have only a decade left during which we can limit—not prevent—the economic calamity and public-health nightmare that climate disruption will visit upon our children and grandchildren; the worst-case scenario is that we have already passed the tipping point on climate.