The election of 2020 has already had one consequence for climate change: Biden has pledged that the United States will rejoin the rest of the world in the 2015 Paris Agreement. And on January 20, 2021, we will have an Administration that understands the seriousness of the threat to our ecosystems and ultimately our way of life.
I don’t intend for this project to be political, except to the extent that climate change public policy is inherently political. Science and engineering should transcend politics to provide facts and evidence that build a shared reality. We can disagree about what to do about climate change, but we cannot take anyone seriously who denies that it is happening.
As a scientist by training, nothing has been more hurtful than the way that the current Administration bullied its own scientists into silence, and the cost that we’ve paid in American lives, due to a botched pandemic response where the simplest public health measures became politicized. The lack of federal action on the pandemic is of a piece with the lack of federal action on climate change, and both were driven by an Administration that tried to ignore or discredit experts who carried messages they didn’t want to hear.
Finally, we haven’t been idle in the United States. We have made a lot of progress in public policy at the state level, and we have continued to drive innovations in everything from renewable energy to plastics to food production and transportation. The We Mean Business coalition has led the movement to get pledges from companies like Amazon and Apple. US automakers have seen that gas-powered cars have a limited future, and are poised to deliver more and better electric cars, as power grids make the transition away from coal and natural gas towards wind and solar power.
I also believe that the United States has not lost its innovative edge. We are working to mature, scale and adopt the technologies we need to address climate change. We can accelerate net zero — and now, we don’t have to fight our own government to do it. I look forward to the day when my country rejoins the fight against climate change.