Instead, in the largest economy in the world, they began to fray.
“We’ve lost very important time on climate change, which we can ill afford,” said Richard Newell, president of Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan energy and environment-focused research organization in Washington. “There is severe damage. To ignore climate for four years, you can’t put a price on that. It’s a huge issue that needs to be confronted with long-term momentum and extreme dedication, and we have lost that.”
A recent analysis by the Rhodium Group, a nonpartisan research organization, found that if the five largest Trump climate control rollbacks, including rules on carbon dioxide emissions from auto tailpipes and power plants and methane leaks from oil and gas wells, were to go forward, an additional 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases would be in the atmosphere by 2035. That’s more than the combined energy emissions of Germany, Britain and Canada in one year.
Assuming Mr. Biden succeeds in re-implementing them, two years would pass before those rules would be legally finalized, resulting in still more emissions.
“If Biden puts the rules back in place, the emissions will be lower than the number in our study, but it will still have a lasting effect,” said Hannah Pitt, a co-author of the study.
Speaking of Mr. Trump’s rollback of Obama-era rules on auto-fuel economy, which would have lowered tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide, she said, “The four years of a Trump administration plus another one or two years to get a rule in place — cars purchased in that period will be less efficient and burn more fossil fuels than they would have otherwise. And those cars can stick around on the road for 10 or 12 years. And once those greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere, they trap heat for decades.”
It is also not certain that Mr. Biden will be able to reinstate all those rules, let alone to make them more stringent. The Biden administration can legally reinstate environmental protections on some public lands that Mr. Trump opened to oil and gas drilling, but using executive authority to write wide-reaching regulations on smokestack and tailpipe emissions may be more problematic with a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court.