What Would A Biden Presidency Look Like For Science & CleanTech?

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We at CleanTechnica extend our hopes and best wishes to Donald Trump for a speedy recovery from COVID-19. We want the President and everyone who is suffering from this terrible virus to return to full and robust health. But we are in in the midst of a big political battle right now, as former President Obama has stated, with “a lot at stake.” A stable US future rests on calm and competent dialogue and collaboration with science and technology experts. A Biden presidency points to many productive means for the US government to return science and technology to their rightful places as foundations of inquiry, leadership, and governance.

Image retrieved from energy.gov

As we heard this week at the vice-presidential debate, Election Day in the US is now only 26 days away. It’s more than just interested voters who are curious about the election outcome: scientists across the globe are wondering what the US federal government will look like after the polls are closed.

Democratic challenger Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, have a lead over the Republican ticket of Trump and vice-president Mike Pence. The impact of technological interventions on individual people, communities, and the environment would need to be carefully considered during a Biden presidency. Right now, all indications are that the Biden camp seems ready to consider science and technology as multidisciplinary, with constituents who promote cooperation and integration between the social and natural sciences.

Questions To Consider About Science & Technology

“I trust scientists,” Biden declared during remarks he made in September. The remarks came as Biden questioned the Trump administration’s process for approving a coronavirus vaccine, while, at the same time, Biden gave the nod to scientists who create, study and vet vaccines.

We humans perceive our environment by use of receptor molecules and sensory organs that only provide us with raw data, such as scents, sounds, or patterns of light. The brain takes over and make sense of these inputs, attributes significance to them, and records them for potential future use.

But it’s science and technology that help us to understand natural processes as systems that need to be considered alongside human, often individualistic desires. That’s why a Biden presidency is so compelling — we’d return to consulting with the experts on the confluence of science and governance.

Essential questions we need to ask of a Biden presidency include:

How can science and technology in the lead-up to 2030 zero emissions levels produce new products, new ways of understanding, new ways of living, and new institutions to significantly reduce carbon in the atmosphere?

How will a Biden presidency navigate the political, economic, and cultural processes of scientific and technological change?

What weight will Biden give to scientific evidence in setting federal policy?

Scientists & Unexpected Media Outlets Announce Support For Biden Presidency

Drawing on the contributions of the humanities, local knowledge systems, indigenous wisdom, and the wide variety of cultural values, the Biden approach promises to be an entirely different way of governing than the Trump administration. Indeed, Newsday has called upon the first acts of a Biden presidency to “make a prompt commitment to scientific integrity.”

Scientific American‘s editorial board has broken with tradition and endorsed Joe Biden. The reason? “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists decries the Trump administration, citing 150 attacks on science. “Suppressed studies. Muzzled scientists. Disbanded scientific advisory committees. These are some examples of the gross violations of scientific integrity that the Trump administration has carried out during its 3½ years in power.”

The Washington Post reports that, after 2 centuries of publishing, the New England Journal of Medicine has weighed in on a US presidential election and urged voters to oust Trump over his administration’s failures. “Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions,” announced 34 of the journal’s editors. “But this election gives us the power to render judgment.”

Image retrieved from obamawhitehouse.archives.gov

Pandemic Response & Planning

Pence’s guidance around the coronavirus pandemic has hardly resembled leadership — more like denial and kowtowing to corporations. He refused to recognize the climate crisis and hemmed and hawed about the physical plexiglass separations during the debate, with his team stating that they thought the barriers were unnecessary.

The White House reportedly made no plans to do any contracting tracing or release any information about the number of staff that were infected at the time of the President’s contagion. “It’s a missed opportunity to prevent additional spread,” says Emily Wroe, a physician and one of the leaders of the contact-tracing team Partners In Health, a Boston-based non-profit organization which has been assisting health officials in Massachusetts.

Image retrieved from cdc.gov

These are just two examples of the many policy mistakes that the Trump administration has made as it confronted the affects of COVID-19 on the US population.

Biden’s pandemic planning began in March and includes the following:

  • A public health response that ensures the wide availability of free testing
  • Fix personal protective equipment (PPE) problems
  • Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based national guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic — and the resources for schools, small businesses, and families to make it through
  • The elimination of all cost barriers to preventive care and treatment for COVID-19
  • Protect older people in the US and others at high risk
  • Plan for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines
  • Rebuild and expand the defenses that Trump has dismantled to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China.
  • A full deployment and operation of necessary supplies, personnel, and facilities
  • Emergency paid leave for all those affected by the outbreak
  • Help to workers, families, and small businesses that are hit hard by this crisis

Importantly — and something to which Harris did not refer explicitly during the vice-presidential debate — experts say that, if 95% of people in the US wear masks between now and December, we can save almost 70,000 lives. So Biden has called on:

  • Every person in the US to wear a mask when they are around people outside their household
  • Every state governor to make mask-wearing mandatory in their state
  • Local authorities to also make mask-wearing mandatory to buttress their state orders

Face masks are the “ubiquitous symbol” of a pandemic that has sickened 35 million people and killed more than 1 million, according to Nature.

Image retrieved from globalchange.gov

Climate Crisis Action Within A Biden Presidency

As Election Day nears, a majority of registered voters in the US say climate change will be a very (42%) or somewhat (26%) important issue in making their decision about whom to vote for in the presidential election, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 27-Aug. 2.

Mike Pence represented the Trump administration’s actions about the climate crisis falsely on many occasions during the debate. What’s important to know that distinguishes the two tickets on climate action?

Trump has moved to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate treaty. Biden has said he will have the US rejoin the Paris climate accord, making the country an active partner of the more than 190 nations that have committed to limiting global warming to 1.5–2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Trump has rolled back a suite of regulations intended to reduce greenhouse-gas regulations. Biden intends to establish an Environmental and Climate Justice Division within the US Department of Justice.

Trump has called global warming a hoax. In contrast, Biden is now campaigning on the most aggressive climate platform ever advanced by a US presidential nominee in the general election.

Biden calls for massive investments in clean-energy research and development and low-carbon infrastructure, such as public transit and energy-efficient buildings. It also looks for the US to generate 100% clean electricity by 2035 and to produce net-zero emissions by 2050. He would also replace the climate deniers at the Environmental Protection Agency and quickly move to restore and reinvigorate climate and environmental regulations.

Trump-Era Science & Technology Policies That Need To Be Overturned

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been disempowered by the Trump administration to the point where it is no longer a credible health source of information for US citizens. In contrast, the Biden campaign has stated that his administration would direct the CDC to issue transparent, evidence-based guidance around the public-health risks of reopening restaurants, schools, and public spaces.

“To be very clear, we don’t want CDC guidance to be a reason why people don’t reopen their schools,” Vice President Mike Pence said in July, 2020.

Biden has committed to a US presidency that supports the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO is fighting COVID-19, polio, and other diseases globally. By demonizing international associations such as the World Health Organization, the journal Nature says Trump has weakened America’s ability to respond to global crises and isolated the country’s science.

Final Thoughts

While allocating science funding is left to Congress, the advisers around whom Biden surrounds himself are crucial. As a former senator, Biden “will likely look to the Senate for ideas,” says Jenny Luray, vice-president of strategy and communications for Research!America in Washington DC. Other potential focuses could include manufacturing technology, public health and health disparities, she predicts.

In the first (and only?) debate, Biden outlined specific aspects of his cleantech plans — including his goals to retrofit 4 million buildings in his first term and achieve carbon-free electricity by 2035. His “Made in All of America” initiative to foster new manufacturing jobs specifically calls for spending $300 billion on R&D over four years, while his $1.7 trillion energy infrastructure-focused climate plan involves spending $400 billion over ten years to make “the largest-ever investment in clean energy research.”

It’s time to reunite science and technology with governance — before it’s too late.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.

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