This is what Biden can do in a climate emergency, and can't
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Today in Callaway Climate Insights:
- Both the UK and U.S. are declaring climate emergencies. What happens from here?
- Tesla is the early leader in the electric vehicle race. Who will be second is more interesting.
- Small nations will push to double climate aid from big polluters at this year’s COP27 in Egypt.
- As heatwaves dominate headlines in Europe, wildfires are causing even more damage.
The total area burned by wildfires in France, Spain & Portugal in the past 10 days exceeds 98,000 acres, according to Europe’s Copernicus Emergency Management System. Today’s forecast shows extreme fire danger for many parts of Europe and at least 1,100 people have died since Friday as a result of heatwaves in Spain and Portugal.
By the end of this week, both the UK and U.S. will have declared climate emergencies, as heatwaves and wildfires wreak devastating havoc on lives and property.
The economic damage, estimated in Europe at least at about half a point of GDP, is only just beginning to be tallied. It will be felt from energy to food production to all services as high temperatures reduce work levels. Markets have not begun to adjust.
Aside from the dramatic nature of the emergency declarations, however, there is little either the UK government or President Joe Biden can do to combat global warming as long as energy costs and inflation remain high and Congress is deadlocked on action.
Biden will make a big deal about executive orders. But most of what he can do, including banning oil exports and more drilling on federal lands, will only make the oil situation worse in the near term. Other actions, such as demanding that federal agencies ratchet up their use of renewable energy, will be immediately met by lawsuits and a hostile Supreme Court.
In the UK, all three of the remaining candidates for prime minister and leader of the ruling Tory party are backpedaling on the government’s already-declared climate strategies in the face of higher costs, even as the country bakes this week at the highest temperatures (104°F. today in London) in history.
The declaration of emergencies will, however, thrust climate action back to the top of the minds of the electorate, which at least in the U.S. is timely, given the coming midterm elections. Biden, who should have declared an emergency on Day 1 of his presidency last year, is at least going into campaign season swinging.
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