Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for president for the third time, sat down with NPR’s Rachel Martin. Martin posed a question about climate change and the fact that his plan for dealing with it does not have the same urgency as the Green New Deal does. The Washington Free Beacon explains what followed.
“Presidential candidate Joe Biden says that candidates campaigning to eliminate carbon emissions by 2030 do not understand climate change science. Anybody who tells you they can eliminate carbon in the air by the year 2030 has no notion of the science,” Biden said during an NPR interview released Monday. “Find me one scientist in the world. You guys, you guys know better than this.”
In effect, Biden pronounced himself to be a Green New Deal Skeptic. The Green New Deal, first devised by Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, would upend human civilization by eliminating fossil fuels, private automobiles, air travels, and even the eating of beef and the drinking of milk, all with a goal of totally eliminating human-caused carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030. The plan has been adopted, in one form or another, by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Sen Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Biden’s climate change plan has a more modest and, he says, more realistic goal of eliminating human-caused co2 emissions by 2050. His policy proposals, costing $1.7 trillion over ten years, are decidedly more modest than those offered by his two main rivals, Warren and Sanders.
They include nuclear power, carbon capture, research into energy storage batteries, and developing hydrogen fuel cell technology. The Biden proposals do not include Nuremberg style trials of oil and gas executives, the mass slaughter of cattle, or mandating that every home has a rooftop solar system by a date certain. The plan even acknowledges that China is the biggest emitter of human-caused CO2 and proposes ways to make that country stop.
Biden would finance his climate change proposal, partly, by eliminating a great deal of the Trump tax cuts. He also claims that his policies would leverage at least $5 billion in private sector investments.
Biden’s plan may seem to be more sensible, albeit ambitious and intrusive, as the Green New Deal. However, a story in Business Insider from last summer suggests that Democratic primary voters are not buying it.
“A plurality — 42% — of Democratic voters said they prefer a plan that aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 by any means necessary. About 15% of likely Republican primary voters said the same. These preferences most closely resemble Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal resolution, which calls for ‘net-zero greenhouse gas emissions’ through a decade-long ‘national mobilization’ that would likely come at huge public expense.”
How many Democrats prefer Biden’s approach? Not a whole lot, as it turns out.
“A significantly smaller portion of Democrats — 14% — said they favored Biden’s plan, which would invest $1.7 trillion over 10 years to get net-zero carbon emissions no later than 2050.”
A Market Realist story from around the same time that Americans tend to support aggressive climate change mitigation programs until they find out the cost. Reuters reported that while 70 percent of Americans support an “aggressive” program to mitigate climate change, only a third support a tax increase as modest as $100 a year to implement it.
“But the plans quickly lose support when voters sense they come with a personal price tag, such paying extra taxes, higher power bills, or trading in their current vehicle for an electrical one, the poll showed.”
The numbers suggest that not even Biden, not to speak of the more radical candidates running for president, quite grasp the politics of climate change. They have to propose something, even if the proposals turn out to be unrealistic and, perhaps, counterproductive, in order to pass muster with Democratic voters. But the high cost of such proposals may be poison in a general election.
Analysts of climate change politics suggest that Biden may be trying to thread the needle. He is making a climate change proposal that is ambitious enough to get him the nomination for the Democratic party presidential candidate.
At the same time, he is trying to craft a policy that is not too expensive or intrusive to turn off general election voters. Whether the strategy will be successful remains to be seen.