Can America Ever Regain Global Leadership on Climate Change?

Can America Ever Regain Global Leadership on Climate Change?
The Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant in Glenrock, Wyoming, July 27, 2018 (AP photo by J. David Ake).

All the interruptions, taunts and empty bombast from President Donald Trump during his first debate with Joe Biden left little room for actual discussion of major issues, from the coronavirus pandemic to U.S. foreign policy. Lost especially amid all the noise was climate change, which looms as an existential threat to life in this century. Climate change was only briefly mentioned in last month’s debate, when it was peculiarly framed.

For a challenge this important, the battle lines were oddly drawn around questions of extremism. Trump, as unserious as ever, boasted vaguely about the quality of America’s “beautiful” and “crystal clean” air and water, despite having rolled back practically every environmental provision he could. Trump suggested that if elected, Biden would squander trillions of dollars in a misguided effort to address an overrated problem. Biden, for his part, mostly took the bait. To be sure, he argued, climate change was the challenge of our times, but that didn’t mean he would be a radical. In fact, as long as the short exchange with Trump lasted, Biden was at pains to separate himself from progressive Democrats in Congress who have campaigned for a transformational set of climate policies they call the Green New Deal.

If Trump is somehow able to pull off a surprise and win reelection on Nov. 3, even though he continues to downplay the pandemic despite being hospitalized after contracting COVID-19, it is a safe bet that the United States will keep actively minimizing the threat of climate change. With a second term, Trump will surely keep promoting old and heavily polluting energy industries, weakening environmental regulations and even punishing states, like California, that enact their own green agendas.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.