WASHINGTON – As U.S. President Joe Biden prepares Wednesday to open an ambitious effort to confront climate change, powerful and surprising forces are arrayed at his back.
Automakers are coming to accept that much higher fuel economy standards are their future, large oil and gas companies have said some curbs on greenhouse pollution lifted by former President Donald Trump should be reimposed, shareholders are demanding corporations acknowledge and prepare for a warmer, more volatile future and a youth movement is driving the Democratic Party to go big on confronting the issue.
But what may well stand in the president’s way is political intransigence from senators from fossil-fuel states in both parties. An evenly divided Senate has given enormous power to any single senator, and one in particular — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who will lead the Senate Energy Committee and who came to the Senate as a defender of his state’s coal industry.
Without a doubt, signals from the planet itself are lending urgency to the cause. Last year was the hottest year on record, capping the hottest decade on record. Already, scientists say the irreversible effects of climate change have started to sweep across the globe, from record wildfires in California and Australia to rising sea levels, widespread droughts and stronger storms.