Climate is Everywhere in First Week of Biden’s Presidency

Plus, calls for Biden to declare a climate emergency, new reporting resources and top climate coverage.

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Activists have said they intend to hold feet to the fire on the new administration’s ambitious climate agenda, but so far they haven’t had to. On day one, Biden signed executive orders to rejoin the Paris Agreement, scuttle the Keystone XL pipeline, and consider revisions to Trump-era fuel economy and vehicle emissions standards; this week, a further suite of climate orders is expected, including a ban on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and water. From activists’ point of view, according to CCNow partner Inside Climate News, Biden’s actions so far are encouraging. In the words of one activist: “It gives me hope.”

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged President Biden to go further by declaring a “climate emergency.” In an exclusive interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, also a CCNow partner, Schumer said that the president’s emergency powers could enable his administration to enact significant climate action if the administration is unable to garner enough support for Biden’s climate agenda in Congress. (Trump used his emergency powers to push through a never-completed wall on the US southern border, Schumer added, even if immigration did not constitute the emergency the former president suggested.) “If there ever was an emergency, climate is one,” Schumer said.

Tuesday night, the Washington Post reported that John Kerry, Biden’s global climate envoy, who as Barack Obama’s  Secretary of State helped negotiate the Paris Agreement, said the Biden administration would treat the climate crisis “as the emergency it is.”  He added that “President Biden knows that we have to mobilize in unprecedented ways to meet a challenge that is fast accelerating.”

From the perspective of science, “climate emergency” is certainly the correct term to describe today’s circumstances. To have a fair chance of preserving civilization as we know it, humanity must act fast to leave the fossil fuel economy behind. “Climate emergency” might seem like a minor semantic difference from the often-used “climate crisis,” but the distinguishing feature of an “emergency” is that it must be dealt with immediately or it becomes too late. Framing news coverage in these terms is not a matter of activism, then, but of accurately conveying the scope and urgency of the challenge at hand.

New and Recent From CCNow

Biden climate officials. To help journalists report on the Biden administration’s climate plans, CCNow has compiled a list of top officials you need to know, with information, where available, for reaching second-tier personnel and aides. We’ll keep this resource updated as more information comes available. Check it out here…

Who else should be getting this newsletter? The climate story is a task for the whole newsroom, so share this newsletter and let folks know they can sign up for it here.

Some of the Week’s Best Climate Coverage

  • Biden’s first-week climate actions are just the beginning of what his administration says will be a “all of government” approach to tackling climate change. In an explainer, Vox lays out just what Biden’s climate agenda will entail and what it will look like in action. From Vox
  • The Biden administration is forging ahead with climate-centric executive orders, but robust legislation could be stymied in Congress by the Senate filibuster. The filibuster, which essentially enables a minority party in the Senate to block any legislation that can’t achieve a 60-vote supermajority, has long hindered meaningful climate action — and it could prove pivotal to the success or failure of Biden’s agenda. From Grist
  • A new study shows that global ice loss is accelerating at a record pace, putting the world on track for the worst-case scenarios outlined in 2018’s landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The ice loss, especially from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, equalled 28 trillion metric tons from 1994 to 2017 — enough to cover the entire UK with an ice sheet 100 meters thick. According to a lead researcher on the study: “Sea level rise on this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities this century.” From The Guardian
  • The financial exodus from fossil fuels continued this week with two major developments. BlackRock, the world’s biggest investment fund manager with a total of $8.7 trillion in assets, is threatening to sell its shares of companies that aren’t on track to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. And the pension funds for New York City’s employees and public school teachers voted to divest $4 billion of holdings in fossil fuel companies.  From The Guardian
  • At a time when America has a fresh opportunity to act on climate change, 12 new and upcoming books have recommendations on the solutions we should pursue. Yale Climate Connections rounds up these releases, in which “the solutions offered … are as often political as they are scientific and technical, and psychological as often as they are environmental.” From Yale Climate Connections

Republication Recommendations

The following stories deserve special attention and consideration for republication by CCNow partners:

For partners, to submit stories for sharing, please use this Google Form. As always, instructions for republishing and the full list of stories available for republication can be found in our Sharing Library.

Call for Plastics Pitches

CCNow partner Yes! Magazine is seeking story pitches for an upcoming issue on plastics. As they say in their call for submissions, nearly half of all the plastic ever produced has been manufactured since the year 2000. They’re looking for stories about solutions to our plastic wasteland that involve the wellbeing of the planet, economic recovery in the wake of Covid-19, accountability for Big Oil, and justice for marginalized communities. Send submissions to by Feb. 5 and, after that, to submissions@yesmagazine.orgRead the call for submissions here…

New Resources

SEJ’s 2021 Journalists’ Guide to Energy & Environment. Today, the Society of Environmental Journalists formally launches its annual guide to the year’s top energy and environment stories and how to cover them. The guide includes tip sheets and backgrounders on public health, environmental justice, renewable energy sources, and more. At 1pm Eastern today, SEJ and the National Geographic Society will host a virtual event to launch the guide, facilitated by CBS News meteorologist (and great friend of CCNow) Jeff Berardeli and featuring as the keynote speaker Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s National Climate Advisor. RSVP for the event here, and check out SEJ’s guide here…

Columbia’s Reregulation Tracker. The Deregulation Tracker, managed by Columbia Law School and the Columbia University Earth Institute, has rebranded as the Reregulation Tracker. Where once the tracker recorded the scores of environmental policies and regulations rolled back by the Trump administration, now it records policies reinstituted by the Biden administration, as well as new policies and regulations. Check the tracker out here…

New Congress Climate Camp. This Friday at 2pm Eastern, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute will host a briefing to “go over the basics of the legislative process, highlighting key areas and opportunities for achieving near-term and long-term carbon reductions through policy.” The target audience is activists, but journalists too can learn a lot about the seemingly complicated legislative bodies and practices required to put policy proposals into action. Learn more and RSVP here…