The executive branch of the United States government once again recognizes the reality of human-driven global warming, a shift reflected by new references to the climate crisis that were added to the White House webpage at the moment President Joe Biden was inaugurated on Wednesday.
Four years ago, the incoming Trump administration deleted a White House page that highlighted the threat of climate change. The page was deleted at noon on January 20, 2017, when Donald Trump officially assumed the presidency. Trump officials replaced the information with a new page that outlined President Trump’s “America First Energy Plan.”
“President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule,” the website said at the time. “Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.”
It is completely normal and expected for the White House website to be altered in order to reflect the priorities of a new administration during the presidential handoff. Given that Trump had established himself as a climate denialist well before the 2016 election, it was also not surprising that his team ensured that references to the climate crisis were wiped from the site on day one of his presidency. The Biden administration has now taken the same step in the other direction, affirming the new president’s acceptance of the latest science on climate change.
Trump rejected the reality of climate change throughout his presidency by pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord, rolling back environmental regulations designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and frequently spreading unfounded claims about warming global temperatures and their complex social and ecological consequences.
For instance, during a September roundtable discussion about the devastating 2020 wildfire season in California—a natural disaster amplified by climate change—Trump said temperatures would “start getting cooler” and to “just watch.” In fact, NASA and NOAA announced last week that 2020 was the hottest year on record, tied with 2016, and that temperatures will continue to climb throughout the 21st century in the absence of drastic changes to the global energy system.
President Biden campaigned on the necessity of what he called a “Clean Energy Revolution” to address the “existential threat” of climate change, according to his website. Biden plans to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Agreement and cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit on his first day in office. The Biden administration also aims to accelerate the full transition of the U.S. to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro by 2050.
The website changeover represents a welcome shift in American climate policy, but Biden isn’t entirely off the hook. He does not support the Green New Deal envisioned by congressional sponsors Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey, for example. However, he has said the proposed legislation is a useful framework for addressing the unequal economic and social impacts of the climate crisis. For this reason, the Biden campaign emphasized the importance of environmental justice in climate policies, in addition to technological development of renewable energies.