When it comes to saving the planet and humanity from climate crisis, there is no time for “middle ground.”
That was the gist of a slew of reactions Friday after Reuters reported that the climate change policy currently being drafted by Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign is “a middle ground approach” that backs some fossil fuel options and curtails a more ambitious path to address the crisis.
Reuters said the approach “could put him in a better position than his rivals to take on Trump if it accommodates blue-collar voters”—a suggestion that one writer characterized as a “BS rationalizing narrative.”
The exclusive reporting cities two key sources: Heather Zichal, Biden’s informal advisor on climate change policy, and an unnamed former energy department official advising the campaign.
Zichal was previously a climate and energy staffer in the Obama White House and then went on to serve a stint on the board of directors for Cheniere, a liquefied natural gas company.
In addition to recommitting to the Paris climate accord and maintaining car efficiency and emissions regulations, reports Reuters, Biden’s proposal “will likely also be supportive of nuclear energy and fossil fuel options like natural gas and carbon capture technology.”
Such a platform, as the reporting noted, would put him squarely at odds with other Democratic presidential hopefuls like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Jay Inslee who’ve called for far more ambitious climate proposals and have backed the Green New Deal.
Zichal, however, suggested the Biden campaign wasn’t moving toward such an amibitous policy. “Right now,” she said, “we need a little bit more reality around this dialogue.”
Reuters speculated that Biden’s approach would “likely face heavy resistance from green activists,” and that was confirmed Friday by a chorus of opposition from groups who argued the plan is the opposite of the kind urgent and bold action needed to avert planetary catastrophe.
“This fossil fuel-friendly agenda would amount to a death sentence for a livable climate,” Mitch Jones, climate and energy program director with Food & Water Action, told Common Dreams.
“While establishment Democrats like Biden seek a middle ground,” said Jones, “our burning planet is seeking a leader that will move us off fossil fuels and towards a just and fair transition to truly clean energy, which would create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country.”
“Grassroots activism has propelled climate change to the top of the agenda for Democratic voters. Biden’s climate stance is not only uninspiring—it will doom us to climate chaos,” he added.
The Sunrise Movement, a driving force behind the Green New Deal legislation, had a similar reaction.
“A ‘middle ground’ policy that’s supportive of more fossil fuel development is a death sentence for our generation and the millions of people on the frontlines of the climate crisis,” said Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash.
“If Biden were serious about creating good jobs for working people,” said Prakash, he’d support the Green New Deal. “Instead, he’s taking a page from the oil and gas lobby’s playbook.”
“Biden’s betting that a retreat to mediocrity and tepid policy making will garner him the Democratic nomination, but climate change is a top issue in this election and voters expect candidates to put forward solutions in line with the crisis. All this approach will do is lose young voters and throw communities of color and working people into chaos and violence, leaving my generation to deal with a broken economy and global society,” she added.
With a surge of negative reactions online, many observers rejected the plan as well:
I understand his motivation but THERE IS NO TIME FOR MIDDLE GROUND ON CLIMATE POLICY. We’re facing a mass extinction.https://t.co/C1rtT5yk4p
— TheInsistence (@cleverironictag) May 10, 2019
A climate policy that turns back the clock to defending administrative actions from 8 years ago and picking symbolic fights over Paris, without anything new to move the ball forward as the clock ticks to zero is its own form of climate denial. Dem voters won’t let this slide https://t.co/YlBW1xtdDN
— Justin Guay (@Guay_JG) May 10, 2019
Biden’s plan is to literally just get us back to where Obama started on climate change. Stunningly un-ambitious considering he claims to believe this is an “existential threat to humanity.” https://t.co/DsmSvHNKpA
— Alex Gustafson (@gustafson906) May 10, 2019
I think I had a panic attack just reading this. If this is their legitimate platform, a Biden presidency would be devastating to global efforts to solve climate change. https://t.co/3v0dJeiVra
— Duncan Meisel (@duncanwrites) May 10, 2019
Biden's climate policies are just as inspiring as the rest of his campaign. pic.twitter.com/DCazsxR3v7
— Peter Hart (@peterfhart) May 10, 2019
— Mitch Jones (@GreenMitchJones) May 10, 2019
There is no “middle ground” on extinction. This is functionally climate denial. https://t.co/cTM4bAQeJi
— Brian Jacobel (@bjacobel) May 10, 2019
— Eric Becker (@ericbecker350) May 10, 2019
You can’t negotiate a middle ground with the apocalypse. https://t.co/u8luZ1plku
— Daniel Solomon (@Dan_E_Solo) May 10, 2019
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) May 10, 2019
The IPCC says we need “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in “all aspects of society” to avoid "an unprecedented climate future" that risks "the future of our civilization."
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) May 10, 2019