How Biden Could Use the Presidential Bully Pulpit to Drive Climate Action


After Donald Trump was defeated and Joe Biden was declared president-elect, the climate movement is already in a heated discussion about how to move politics forward in the Biden era, especially if Mitch McConnell manages to maintain his control over the Senate. But the political debate overlooks one of the most important things Biden has to do if he finally makes it to the White House: use his new bullying pulpit to advance climate change politics.

Former presidents have used the bullying pulpit to sell and advance their political agendas, often despite opposition from the opposing party. Theodore Roosevelt, who coined the term, used it to rail against corporate monopolies like Standard Oil and to advance its environmental agenda (as well as some despicable notions about white supremacy). Ronald Reagan used his reputation as “the great communicator” to advance his tax cuts and anti-government agenda. Trump turned the president’s megaphone to eleven and used it to disrupt political norms and fuel his toxic ideology.

President Biden must use the Oval Office to advance the bold climate agenda he adopted during his campaign. Climate policy has changed in the last year, thanks in large part to youth-led groups like the Sunrise Movement and grassroots groups who have insisted on this climate justice become at the core of democratic plans to deal with the crisis. Large sections of the labor movement also got on board, confirming Biden’s claim that when he thought of climate change he thought of “jobs”. Meanwhile, investors continue to flee fossil fuels as the market shifts towards clean energy.

When Biden spoke about the climate crisis against the backdrop of forest fires, derechos and hurricanes, sections of the mainstream media eventually received the memo that reporting on the greatest crisis of mankind should be the top priority. Newspapers made the link between extreme weather and global warming. Climate change has more time than ever in this year’s presidential and vice-presidential debates, although most of the cable news lingers drop the ball.

All of this had an impact: even amid the coronavirus pandemic, the economic crisis and Trump’s daily tirades, the climate remained a key issue for Democratic voters. And large numbers of Republicans also said they were concerned about the crisis. According to a poll by Fox News on election night 70 percent of the voters supported higher government spending on green and renewable energies.

The lesson for the Biden government should be clear: keep climate change and the clean energy revolution in the spotlight.

For those of us who spend our lives following politics on Twitter or reading climate stories over coffee, it’s easy to forget that the benefits of protecting the climate are still abstract for many people. Worse, there are a lot of people out there who still hold the archaic notion that they have to choose between work and the environment. Little do they know that there are more people employed in the clean energy economy than in fossil fuels. That a Green New Deal could save communities that are dependent on coal, oil and gas. That all of these changes not only save the climate, but also make us healthier, safer and safer.



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