WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — More than 500 days into his presidency, Joe Biden’s hope of saving the Earth from the most devastating effects of climate change may not be entirely dead.
But it is not far from that.
A Supreme Court ruling on Thursday not only limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to control climate pollution by power plants, but also suggested that the court limit climate-destructive fumes emitted by oil, gas and coal. is prepared to block other efforts by Biden and federal agencies. ,
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It’s a blow to Biden’s commitment to emissions reductions in the few years scientists say are left to address the worse and deadly levels of global warming. And it’s a sign, for Democrats in the country and allies abroad, of diminishing options left for Biden to reverse the legacy of President Donald Trump, who mocked the science of climate change. Trump’s three Supreme Court appointments provided half of the affirmative votes in Thursday’s 6-3 decision.
After the ruling, a veteran Democratic lawmaker admitted he had little hope of Congress creating any meaningful climate legislation. “There is no easy solution from Congress to this mess,” said Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. Foreign allies who once talked about leading the way in a global clean-power transformation are wondering whether the United States itself can lead the way.
In some ways the climate decision “could have at least such a massive impact on the European population that this is a country that A: can’t function and B: is going in a really bizarre direction domestically,” says Max Bergman, Said Director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
And entering hurricane season in a Houston neighborhood, a man who had spent four decades advocating for black communities and other communities of color and poor communities was hit hardest by pollution and recorded heat, cold, flooding and climate change. The storm of change reacted to the ruling as did many others – saying that salvaging climate efforts now depends on Biden, and on his willingness to act and lead.
“It’s real,” said Robert Bullard, an academic who became a leader in America’s environmental justice movement that became a leader in many natural disasters—the kind that scientists say are affected by the warming climate—of Mexico. America’s vulnerable Gulf cities are being ruined.
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“Those communities are flooded … some of those communities still have blue wires on their homes,” Bullard said. “So I don’t think the Supreme Court and some of our elected officials are speaking about the urgency of where we are when it comes to our climate.”
Biden’s EPA still has meaningful steps ahead, but it should move quickly, Eric Schaefer, the agency’s former director of civil enforcement, said in a statement. Among them: speed up a new rule limiting carbon pollution from power plants, a long-running update to standards on toxic discharges from plants and a swift crackdown on the leak of climate-damaging methane into natural gas Proceed, as the Biden administration has already promised. ,
Following Thursday’s decision, the EPA promised to put forward a new proposed carbon rule for power plants early next year.
Biden has pledged to halve the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade and create an emissions-free power sector by 2035.
“Our fight against climate change must go forward, and it will,” Biden said in a statement after the ruling, adding that there is no guarantee of success.
Biden said his team would “find ways” that “under federal law, we can continue to protect Americans” from pollution and climate change.
Disappointment expressed at the Supreme Court action by the vast majority of people in the US who say they care deeply about climate change shows it was only the latest blow to Biden’s early promises of emissions reductions .
A divided Congress had already handed Biden, the worst climate defeat of his term so far, when two Democrats, including coal-state lawmaker Joe Manchin, failed to pass Biden’s Build Back Better package. The Senate joined the Republicans.
The climate portion of the legislation was meant to kickstart America’s transformation into a land of electric cars, clean industry and energy efficient buildings. Biden was able to push forward some small parts of his proposal, including an electric car charger.
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And this year, in a dangerous development for Biden’s early climate hopes as a Supreme Court decision, a global oil and gas supply crisis has sent gas prices to record highs. This has fueled inflation and voter anger against Biden and potentially other Democrats.
The lack of energy left Biden scrambling for additional oil and gas. It is also unclear whether he still feels he has the political capital to lead the US move to renewable energy as he promised as a candidate and in his first months in office.
Ruling left-wing policy experts, lawmakers and the general public said Biden, Democrats and climate-minded Republicans still have some way to go to advance climate efforts.
There is an ambitious, shrewd executive action – if Biden dares – to move forward through carefully targeted emissions-cutting steps.
One is climate action by California and the other is the blue state that previously swung into action to challenge Trump’s climate rollback in court.
A third option is a pitch that Biden and Democrats are throwing at a greater number of voters – electing enough Democrats in the midterm to allow Congress to pass laws thwarting the rollbacks by conservatives in Congress and the Supreme Court. Do it.
The Supreme Court decision came as Biden was enjoying a successful gathering with NATO allies, who have rallied behind the US in countering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Following Biden’s initial declarations at the summit early in his term that “America is back!”, setbacks in the Supreme Court underscored how vulnerable the US president is on the domestic front, including the need to meet climate commitments. The matter is also included.
As soon as the ruling was issued, Biden envoy John Kerry was flying after an oceans conference in Portugal, still working towards global and country-by-country commitments to cut emissions. Like Biden, Kerry’s pledge on US climate ambitions has become more muted as the constraints mount.
Domestic climate shocks have helped slow the initial global momentum for climate breakthroughs. He has weakened America’s leverage as Kerry pressures countries including China to move away from coal and other harmful fossil fuels – something that Biden vowed the US would lead by example.
Associated Press writers Nancy Benack and Jennifer McDermott contributed to this report.