The American people have been united for decades on the importance of clean air, clean water, and access to economic opportunity. Now, as President Biden takes office, he can deliver concrete benefits to all Americans by investing in renewable energy and green infrastructure, and by protecting our environment and health through common-sense safeguards.
Most Americans understand that a shift to renewable energy holds great promise, from dramatically reducing air pollution to improving public health. A recent study found that between 2005 and 2016 the closure of dirty coal-fired power plants saved an estimated 26,610 lives due to air pollution reduction. At the same time, the study found coal plants still in operation contributed to over 325,000 premature deaths. As the study’s author, Jennifer Burney, an associate professor of environmental science at UC San Diego, explains, “[P]olicymakers often think about greenhouse gas emissions as a separate problem from air pollution, but the same processes that cause climate change also produce these aerosols, ozone, and other compounds that cause important damages.”
As the Biden administration moves forward with its goal of incentivizing renewable energy projects to come online and replace dirty fossil fuel plants, even more health benefits are set to accrue, especially for those in frontline communities (often minorities) who have suffered from decades of exposure to polluting industries.
In addition to the public health benefits, investing in renewable energy projects and green infrastructure will grow jobs, helping to strengthen our economy as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Economists have estimated Biden’s climate plans can create more than 10 million well-paying jobs in clean energy, manufacturing, and construction, bolstered by Biden’s pledge to use federal procurement dollars to buy American-made clean-technology products.
Biden has also signaled an embrace of natural climate solutions such as carbon-negative agriculture, and he’s pledged to conserve 30% of US lands and oceans by 2030, a measure which would increase carbon sequestration and provide recreation and enjoyment for current and future generations of Americans.
Climate action has become a winning political issue because it offers tangible benefits to all Americans now, and will provide a healthier, more stable climate for future generations. In its latest poll conducted this past December, Yale’s Program on Climate Change Communication found that two thirds of registered voters (including nearly four in ten Republicans) expressed support for the Biden administration’s goal of decarbonizing the power sector by 2035, and nearly three quarters of registered voters (and nearly five in ten Republicans) supported his goal of transitioning the US to a clean energy economy by 2050. What’s more, close to two thirds of voters in battleground states believe President Biden has been given a mandate by the voters to achieve these goals.
The President and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have all said they want to unite the country. Tackling climate change, growing jobs, and improving public health are outcomes that everyone can agree on. The American people are ready, and the time to act is now.