• Climate/EnergyOpinion

    Biden Chooses Fossil Fuels Over Us

    The sun was beating down and my ears were ringing. My hands gripped the megaphone as we chanted, “No more drilling, no more drilling, no more drilling on federal lands!” The words we chanted were President Joe Biden’s verbatim, a broken promise made on the campaign trail in 2020. Just over a week after approving a massive oil drilling plan in the Arctic called the Willow project, President Biden hosted a conservation summit at the Department of the Interior. Youth climate justice organizers from Zero Hour protested alongside allied organizations outside the summit for hours, determined not to let Biden forget his broken promise. Administration officials and the president himself entered and left the building, pretending to ignore us and our demands, but we didn’t quiet down. We don’t plan to stop protesting the outrageous decision any time soon.

    The conservation summit also came a day after the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released, warning that this is our last chance for governments to stop fossil fuels to meet key planetary warming thresholds. The audacity of the Biden administration to host an environmental summit just after taking action that locks us into further dependence on fossil fuels is a striking example of just how out-of-touch the administration is. The week before the Willow project was approved, #StopWillow went viral online and a Change.org petition against the project gathered nearly 2.5 million signatures. In-person protests erupted in places from the White House to the Stephen Colbert show where Vice President Kamala Harris was a guest. And yet, the administration has continued to stand by its unconscionable decision.

    I have been organizing and advocating for climate action since I was 15 years old, and politicians being deaf to public demands is nothing new to me. But as I stood outside the president’s summit that day, it felt like a slap in the face.

    I refuse to fall victim to climate doom, because the truth is we can still save our planet as we know it.

    President Biden will never know what it’s like to be a young person growing up in the middle of the climate crisis. Seeing news like the IPCC report back to back with government-sanctioned fossil fuel approval, it’s no wonder many young people like me are disillusioned and riddled with climate anxiety and despair. Every day we are careening towards a dark and uncertain future, as we watch the waters rise around us and deadly disasters become regular occurrences. Words cannot describe how demoralizing it is to see our representatives side with fossil fuels again and again, stubbornly chaining us to a corrupt and antiquated industry that has no concern for the future of humanity.

    I refuse to fall victim to climate doom, because the truth is we can still save our planet as we know it. The IPCC was clear about that too: If greenhouse gas emissions peak now, we have a chance to keep the planet under 1.5°C of warming. Scientists warn that at 1.5°C, we will see the most catastrophic effects of climate change. From coastal cities going underwater to widespread food scarcity from crop failures, humanity will face challenges we can’t even fathom. I became a climate justice organizer because I was determined not to let our planet and futures be stolen from us by the fossil fuel industry. The only way we’ll achieve a livable future is if our president carries that philosophy as well.

    President Biden needs youth and climate justice organizers on his side too. I worked hard organizing youth to vote for Biden in 2020 even though I myself was too young to vote. I remember the relief and hope I felt when he won, promising to cut emissions by 50% by 2030. But Biden has not been the climate president he claims to be, and has taken actions that undermine his emission reduction goals. On top of the Willow project, the Biden administration approved 6,430 permits to drill for oil and gas on public lands in its first two years, a higher rate than the Trump administration.

    There is no middle ground when it comes to fighting the climate crisis anymore: We either stop all new fossil fuels or we don’t. Approving new fossil fuel projects at this point is absurd: We need to be actively shutting down current projects. President Biden’s decision on the Willow project is the opposite of what conventional science dictates. It communicates a disconnect from reality and a disregard for the people who elected him. Time has run out for a both-sides approach: President Biden must choose one or the other, fossil fuels or our future. By approving the Willow project, it is clear which side he is on.

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