Earth Watch July 3: amid unprecedented heat waves, has Biden broken his promises on climate action?

News from the epicenter of the climate justice movement

President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris got elected in part by promising voters that they would take the action necessary to stop climate collapse, but six months into the administration very little substantive change has occurred on an issue where time is quickly running out. 

Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Update: Justice Department sides with Enbridge against Indigenous Rights and Climate Justice

Branch Out has previously reported on protests in Washington DC and in Minnesota against Enbridge Energy’s massive pipeline expansion across Anishinaabe land and the Mississippi River headwaters. Last week, there was a new development in the legal battles to stop the pipeline, and Biden’s justice department has come down on the side of the pipeline company.

The Justice Department decided to continue a full-throated defense in a lawsuit filed late in 2020 by EarthJustice on behalf of Honor the Earth, two Anishinaabe Tribes and the Sierra Club that alleges the Army Corps of Engineers failed to consider Indigenous Nations’ rights and the impacts of water pollution and climate change when they issued the permits allowing Enbridge to build the pipeline. In a June 23rd legal brief, the Biden administration announced that they will continue to defend the Army Corps of Engineers, and believe that the environmental impact of the project was fully investigated before the permit was issued. 

In addition to crossing tribal land and the headwaters for the Mississippi River Watershed, if completed, the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline would transport 32 million barrels of Canadian Tar Sands oil every single day. Tar sands oil is the most heavily polluting oil on the market, and climate scientists have estimated that burning the entire Tar Sands reserves would push the atmospheric CO2 concentration above 500 ppm. 

By continuing to defend the Line 3 Pipeline expansion, the Biden administration is creating a legal precedent and massive economic incentive for increased drilling of the Tar Sands, which could be the most singularly destructive event for the world’s climate in recorded history. 

Sunrise Movement activists rally at the White House to demand a fully-funded Civilian Climate Corps

More than 500 activists with the Sunrise Movement blockaded all 10 entrances to the White House on Monday and several dozen were arrested in a protest aimed at pressuring Biden and Congressional Democrats to move forward with bold climate action, specifically the Civilian Climate Corps, a program modeled after the 1930’s era Civilian Conservation Corps that put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work every year building parks, planting trees and doing flood and wildfire mitigation, among other projects. 

The Civilian Climate Corps, or CCC, is a real program that Biden established by executive order, but he needs Congress to act to appropriate funds for the program. If funded, the CCC could pick up where the 1930’s program left off with tree-planting and natural disaster mitigation, but that just scratches the surface of the potential of a robust CCC. The program could also fund an overhaul of the United States’ electrical grid to renewable energy, expansion of public transportation and high-speed rail, as well as affordable and sustainable housing projects and regenerative agriculture to put carbon back in the soil across America’s farmland. 

Currently, there is no funding for the CCC in the latest $579 billion version of the American Jobs Plan, which has been widdled down from the originally proposed $3 trillion plan in order to gain the support of Republicans in Congress. The White House has signaled that in addition to the bipartisan bill, Biden will support a second infrastructure bill that can be passed through budget reconciliation with only 50 Democratic Senators’ votes, but the White House has not made any commitment to including the CCC in the second bill either. 

At the protest on Monday, the Sunrise Movement was joined by Congressman Jamal Bowman (D-NY) and congresswomen Cori Bush (D-MO) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who proposed a standalone bill to fund the CCC earlier this year. In addition to funding the CCC, protesters also demanded that the White House meets with representatives from the Sunrise Movement including Executive Director Varshini Prakash who said in a statement, “From negotiating down Biden's original climate and jobs proposals, to his lack of opposition to Line 3, and approval and defense of other major long term fossil fuel projects like the Willow Project in Alaska, President Biden has been failing us.”

Heatwave sets Pacific Northwest ablaze

At least 95 deaths in Oregon have been attributed to complications arising from extreme heat since last Friday, June 25th. Temperatures in Portland have reached 116 degrees Fahrenheit. In Washington state, almost 2000 people have visited the emergency room due to extreme heat over the same time period, with more than 20% requiring admittance to the hospital. 

Meanwhile, wildfires have broken out in extremely dry and hot conditions. The Wrentham Market Fire in Oregon has burned more than 7,000 acres as of Friday, with several other fires still burning throughout the state, resulting in flights and trains to the region getting canceled. To the North, the Lind Fire in Washington state burned about 20,000 acres before it was contained. California is also bracing for a majorly destructive fire season that is only beginning.

The heatwave and fires come as the entire Western United States is in the midst of the worst drought in about 1200 years, and as the 4th of July weekend brings with it a heightened risk of new wildfire outbreaks from fireworks. At the same time, Branch Out is on the ground in Central Oregon to begin work on a drought-resistance carbon farming project.

How you can help!

In addition to our climate journalism, Branch Out has spent years researching and developing plans for a funding model based around carbon sequestration and regenerative agriculture. After years of networking and learning within the permaculture community, Branch Out is now partnering with a group in Oregon to implement large-scale agroforestry practices and establish carbon-negative communities that are adapted to our changing climate.

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