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This blog is expressly directed to readers who do not have strong training or backgrounds in science, with the intent of helping them grasp the underpinnings of this important issue. I'm going to present an ongoing series of posts that will develop various aspects of the science of global warming, its causes and possible methods for minimizing its advance and overcoming at least partially its detrimental effects.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Former Vice President Biden Says Climate Change Is An “Existential” Threat

Former U. S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke before the United States Conference of Mayors on January 24, 2019.  Following the link above takes you to the YouTube video of his address.  Fully half of his 30-minute speech was devoted to the dire need for the U. S. to address climate change rather than retreat from the issue the way the present Trump administration is doing. 

Vice President Biden summarized the important climate and economic benefits generated by the funds in the Obama administration’s Recovery Act of 2009 (intended to stimulate the economy out of the Great Recession) that were directed to mitigating climate change in the U. S.  He then proceeded to offer a heartfelt, sincere and cogent statement on why and how U. S. federal policy should continue to combat climate change by doubling down on policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a renewable energy economy.  By doing so the U. S. would rejoin all the other nations of the world in our unified campaign to limit further global warming, to which we all subscribed in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The link above takes one to the video of Biden’s speech.  The portion dealing with climate change begins at about 16 min, 19 sec (16:19) of the video, and continues to about 29 min, near the end.  (For those unfamiliar with YouTube, if you mouse over any part of the video screen the timeline of the video pops up at the bottom of the screen.  Then as the mouse scans along that timeline, you can stop at 16:19 [or any other time you wish].  If you then click on that position the video will begin playing at that point.)

Here are some direct quotes from Biden’s talk, with the time for each statement indicated.

  • The Recovery Act included “the single biggest investment in clean energy in the history of the country - $90 billion.  It leveraged $150 billion in the private sector. [It] created hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs…By the end of the administration there was 30 times as much solar energy and [we were] creating clean energy jobs 12 times faster than any other sector of the economy.” (16:19)
  • “There’s no reason that in 2025 all of North America can’t get half of electricity from non-polluting sources.  It’s within our grasp but for special interests!” (20:40)
  • Addressing the mayors directly, he said “You also know…it’s a matter of survival.  The threat posed by climate change is existential.” (21:26)
  • “You know what the military said [to President Obama and Vice President Biden]?  ‘You know what our greatest security threat is?  Global warming….If sea levels rise…you have tens of millions of people migrating.  That’s how wars start.’” (21:42)
  • “Our government’s own most recent report found that heat stress and drought can kill up to a quarter of our corn and soybean harvest.  What’s that going to mean for you mayors from the Midwest…? What does that mean … when John Deere [a major manufacturer of farm equipment] has nothing to plow? (23:40)
  • Our scientists have spoken…Since when did we become science deniers?  The United Nations told us…we have 12 years to act before it’s irreversible” (24:07)
  • (Referring to the Trump administration intention to pull out of the Paris Agreement)…“you’ve stepped up [addressing the mayors]….400 of you said, no, no, not me….57% of you pledged to take action in 2019”  (25:50)
  • “…this is the most urgent priority facing the nation, and we’ll be judged by our children and grandchildren for what we do today.” (27:48)    


This writer finds it highly significant that Vice President Biden, in his appearance before the United States Conference of Mayors for 2019 devoted so much emphasis to the single issue of climate change.  With all the problems facing our mayors, such as economic and social injustice, and opioid abuse, to name only a few, he chose to stress the importance of the climate change issue as an “existential” threat, stating “this is the most urgent priority facing the nation”.

Skeptics may downplay this speech as being merely a political gesture from someone grappling with the decision of whether to run for president in two years.  Yet there are many other ways he could have addressed our country’s mayors.  Here’s a man who was at the center of national power for eight years.  He came to understand the singular, generational, global significance of man-made emissions of greenhouse gases that have led to intolerable levels of global warming in the short time, geologically speaking, of a figurative blink of an eye.  Mr. Biden is to be praised for this effort.  We all should support his call to action on climate change, regardless of whether he runs for president.

© 2019 Henry Auer