As one of the widely acknowledged superpowers, the US’s influence on global aspects is undeniable. From pop culture to politics, the US plays an important part in every decision that affects the Earth’s greater good. This includes global warming.
The US has been an important player in contributing to offsetting global warming since it was first discovered in the 90s. Yet, which US president tried to remedy the situation, and which only worsened it? Let’s learn more about the history of the Oval Office’s global warming policies in today’s article.
1. Bill Clinton (1993 – 2001)
Bill Clinton is the first US president to pledge to offset climate change by reducing greenhouse gasses emissions in the US. With global warming finally being acknowledged, US global warming policies quickly becomes one of Clinton’s major focuses during his presidency.
More specifically, he created the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, which signed the Kyoto Protocol. The Council then pledged to lower US greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2000. President Clinton also revealed his Climate Change Action Plan, a series of voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Many of Clinton’s actions were seen as ineffective against climate change by many environmentalists, due to their lack of mandatory measures. Yet, they are still some of the first major environmental efforts by the executive branch of the government, and they lay the groundwork for other US presidents to follow.
The best outcome of his presidency is that Clinton’s administration acknowledges global warming as a “national threat of the 21st century”. This view was carried to his second term, wherein the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to lower greenhouse gases emissions between 2008 and 2012 on the part of developed nations that ratified it.
However, the US under Clinton also lacked a clear strategy on how to lower greenhouse gases emission, with his proposal guaranteeing almost no action taken during the next decade. Despite its flaws, Clinton’s administration was partially successful in raising the US public awareness of global warming.
2. George W. Bush (2001 – 2009)
The Bush administration did not support the science behind global warming. During the 8 years of his tenure, President Bush and his administration did everything to undermine the state’s efforts to offset global warming. His decision to almost immediately back out of the Kyoto Protocol was a heavy blow to environmental efforts worldwide since the US is one of the main ratified countries.
His efforts left a strong impression on the American people to this day, and any international agreements involving global warming are thought of as obsolete. While his tax credits for renewable energy are an attractive incentive, they are nowhere near as effective. Its lack of a mandate hampered the US in cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions while moving its economy forward.
The Bush administration’s worst offense is their censorship of any information regarding global warming. By downplaying global warming impacts, the Bush administration misled the public away from the worst greenhouse gas emitters in the world.
Under his orders, scientific reports need to be reworded to follow the skepticism of the Bush administration on global warming or be abided by oil lobbyists. Worse still, government scientists were discouraged from discussing this topic. His unrelenting attempts to censor the scientific community on global warming have had a lasting impact.
Having censorship as one of US global warming policies is the root of the American public’s 21st-century skepticism on the subject. Various accounts by scientists have condemned the Bush administration for removing key pieces on the effects of global warming on human health. Where do you think Trump’s idea about global warming being a hoax came from?
3. Barack Obama (2009 – 2017)
President Obama is an avid supporter of US global warming policies. His Presidential Climate Action Plan was presented in his first year as US president and has been updated every two years, barring the period during Trump’s presidency. The plan works to prepare the American public for unavoidable climate change, as well as cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, thus slowing down the process.
Also, he is the first president of the US to actually go through with a climate change accord – the Copenhagen Accord to be more specific. While it is still debatable the measures that were used to gather support from other participating countries, there was little doubt about the US’s effort in gathering support to revert climate change.
Another Obama administration’s landmark in offsetting global warming is his agreement with Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping. The agreement aims to phase down HFCs, which will reduce roughly 90 gigatons of CO2 by 2050, one of the most notorious greenhouse gases.
President Obama also successfully struck a deal with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reduce 40-45% below 2012 levels in methane emissions by 2025 in North America. Compared to his predecessor, this is the furthest cooperative effort the US has made since then.
Along with his successful efforts on the international front, there were other plans to offset global warmings, such as the Clean Power Plan, which focuses on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, and the American Clean Energy and Security Act. One of the most vocal on the matter of climate change, his constant efforts in offsetting global warming, and in mediating the benefits of the US with the greater good are his biggest legacy to the world.
4. Donald Trump (2017 – 2021)
President Trump’s tenure has been a nightmare for global warming. He made himself infamous by announcing his skepticism about global warming as one of his presidential pitches. In fact, many environmentalists had worried that a second term for President Trump would cause irreparable damage to the environment. From being the only country that pulled out of the Paris Agreement, to massive censorship of the EPA, President Trump did everything in his power to fight against environmental causes.
One of President Trump’s biggest achievements was his successful rollback of over 90 environmental rules and regulations. By the time his tenure is over, there are 14 more on their way to be nullified. The Trump administration intervenes heavily on the EPA website. In detail, they massively deleted and edited the content on global warming being because of man-made action.
With strong opposition over scientific claims that CO2 was the primary cause of global warming, the Trump administration had gone out of its way to promote the coal industry, and to rescind many environmental regulations. He furthermore increased emissions by sanctioning new vehicle emissions standards, which were projected to result in an additional billion tons of carbon dioxide, increasing annual U.S. emissions by about one-fifth.
President Trump’s biggest offense to US global warming policies stems from his politicization of environmental issues and global warming. This includes preventing scientists from reporting to Congress on climate change’s urgency. His decisions during his tenure are predicted to have raised the world temperature by 4 degrees Celsius.
5. Joe Biden (2022 – present)
Halfway into Biden’s presidency, the US has returned to promoting climate change. This includes rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change. He also reenacted some of Obama’s policies while introducing his own.
At COP26, President Biden shows great prospects for balancing the greater good with the good of the American people. With an ambitious goal of reducing US emissions by a net zero in 2050, the Biden administration aims to offset the negative effects of climate change, some of which were brought about by the actions of his predecessor.
However, what makes the President’s environmental efforts stand out is his pledge to offset deforestation and land degradation by 2030. Following his pledge in COP26, a $19B was introduced to carry out successfully with full funding.
It is true that all US presidents have left their marks on our work to offset global warming. The current US Biden administration has consistently shown a strong commitment towards offsetting global warming. More so than any of his predecessors, in fact.
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