Should former vice-president Joe Biden ultimately succeed in his bid for the U.S. presidency, he'll face extreme pressure from climate alarmists. Far-left climate groups are pushing the potential president to declare a climate emergency, believing that such a move would free up Biden to ignore Congress to get more controversial climate action moving without resistance from Republicans or more moderate Democrats.
Climate alarmists liken the move to President Trump's declaration of an emergency on the southern border in February of 2019, which allowed Trump to divert funds in order to build sections of the border wall after Congress refused to appropriate the money.
Proponents of a climate emergency declaration believe that it will likewise free up monies for clean energy projects and allow a potential President Biden to use executive actions to shut down offshore drilling and quash the movement of fossil fuels on pipelines, trains, and ships.
"The president's powers to address climate change through an emergency are very, very large," said Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "This is number 1 on the list of things the Biden administration should do."
Biden made some in-roads with climate alarmists earlier this week by naming former Secretary of State John Kerry to a cabinet level position as a "Climate Czar," who would oversee America's effort to work with the rest of the world on efforts to curtail so-called global warming.
"In addressing the climate crisis, President-elect Joe Biden is determined to seize the future now and leave a healing planet to future generations," said Kerry.
At an event Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday, Kerry signaled that it would be his job to work with other nations on strategies to begin that "healing."
"Mr. President-elect, you've put forward a bold transformative climate plan. But you've also underscored that no country alone can solve this challenge. Even the United States, for all our industrial strength, is responsible for only 13 percent of global emissions. To end this crisis, the whole world must come together. You're right to rejoin [the Paris Climate Agreement] on day one, and you're right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough," Kerry said.
While climate activists commended the selection of Kerry, they also made clear that it won't be enough to satisfy them. They are banking on Biden coming through on a proposed Office of Climate Mobilization as outlined in the Biden-Sanders task forces which met after Bernie Sanders withdrew from the presidential race and endorsed Biden.
"We are encouraged by Joe Biden making one of his first major appointments John Kerry as Climate Czar as it demonstrates the urgency of taking bold, global action on the climate crisis," said Alexandra Rojas of Justice Democrats in a statement. "But America also needs a domestically focused climate czar who directly reports to the president and will oversee an Office of Climate Mobilization agreed to in the Biden-Sanders task forces."
Rojas continued: "It's time to use the full force of the federal government to create millions of jobs, invest in our communities, and transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy to usher in the economy of the future."
Other left-wing elements are urging caution on the idea of declaring an emergency with regard to climate, claiming it goes too far when it removes Congress from the equation.
"Declaring a climate emergency will radicalize climate protection, alienating the very moderate senators needed to pass infrastructure and other bills with carbon reducing provisions," said Paul Bledsoe, a strategic advisor Progressive Policy Institute and a former Clinton administration staffer. "Why would Biden borrow from Trump's polarizing playbook, when Biden's trying to actually unite the country to act on climate?"
Others argue that it might be a move Biden could use down the road, but not immediately since it would signal that Biden wouldn't be able to get anything done legislatively.
"It would be a pretty egregious sign of weakness right out of the gate; an acknowledgment that legislative and regulatory were destined to fail," said Mike McKenna, a former deputy assistant to President Trump who has also worked as a lobbyist for the energy industry. "That strikes me as something that might happen in year three or year four, as part of an effort to goose the re-elect, or the election of whoever is running."
At the time, many on the Right lauded President Trump's declaration of an emergency on the southern border as a strategic master stroke. But it did open up a new avenue for dwellers of the White House to gain temporary powers. By declaring an emergency on the southern border - which by most standards was indeed an emergency - it made it possible for future presidents to use such a declaration to their own ends.
All Trump wanted was a border wall. Should a potential President Biden declare a climate emergency, it's not just about a construction project; it's about an executive office takeover of a large portion of the U.S. economy.