On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Vice President Joe Biden, presumptive Democratic candidate for president, stated, “Earth Day began as a day of organizing that demonstrated the power of community action. This year, it’s also a reminder of everything that’s on the line if we do not get Donald Trump out of the White House and restore critically needed American leadership to the global climate fight, and to clean and protect our air, water, and land. If we give Trump four more years in office at this critical juncture for our planet, there may be no recovering from the damage his dangerous dismissal of science and short-sightedness will inflict on all of us.”
Here is his full statement:
Fifty years ago, the first Earth Day took place against a backdrop of unfettered pollution filling our skies, rivers so poisonous they caught fire, unregulated use of pesticides, and threats to the livability of our planet. But in a moment of choice, Americans all across this country took action. On April 22, 1970, 20 million people turned out to educate their communities and protest the degradation of our planet, launching the modern environmental movement.
It wasn’t a partisan issue. It wasn’t some ideological debate. Everyone could see that our planet was in peril. And by acting together, those activists seized the attention and the imagination of people all over the world, as well as leaders in Washington. Out of that first Earth Day came the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a new mindset that awakened all of us to our responsibilities beyond just the world we leave our children—to ensuring that our one planet will provide for generations unborn.
This year, Earth Day comes amid global crises: the difficult, immediate, and undeniable reality of pandemic disease, and the existential threat of climate change—which we are already experiencing and which threatens equally deadly results in the near future if we fail to act. COVID-19 and the climate emergency both underscore the fragility of life on this planet, the connections that bind us to our fellow humans, and the responsibility we all have to meet these global threats with urgent action, ambitious plans, and every tool at our disposal.
That’s the responsibility I feel every time I look at my grandchildren and see their unlimited potential. Or when I hear from young activists who understand that inaction today is costing their futures. Today’s young people carry the same fierce spirit as those first Earth Day activists, and they are the reason I know we will succeed in spurring the world to finally raise our ambitions to meet the seriousness of this threat.
This is an inflection point. A moment for all of us to come together to repair the damage to our environment caused by centuries of poorly regulated industrialization. But out of this crisis, we can also seize a moment of unmatched opportunity—to build a new, clean-energy future that remakes our economy, creates millions of good jobs that provide an opportunity to join a union, and revolutionizes our approach to environmental justice. To invest in a green infrastructure. To develop the technologies that will power tomorrow. To strengthen our resilience in the face of the impacts of climate change that we are already experiencing. To clean the air we breath and the water we drink. To revitalize our ocean and preserve our biodiversity. To deliver to our children and future generations a planet that will continue to protect and nurture them.
Meeting the threat of climate change is not beyond our skill, if we are guided by science and facts. We are not helpless. We can still forestall the worst-case scenarios that the scientists have warned us about for decades—but only if we act now. If we do not take aggressive steps to rein in our greenhouse gasses, and put our world on a radically different path by 2030, we will begin to see irrevocable changes that will threaten human life on Earth.
Yet, since almost the day he took office, President Donald Trump has done everything within his power to worsen the situation, sabotage our environmental protection laws and let polluters go unchecked, and reverse any progress on climate change—not just in the United States, but around the world. He denies the facts in front of his face as well as the assessments of his own intelligence analysts and government researchers. He muzzles scientists, censors research, and overruled California’s efforts to lead on climate in the absence of the federal government. He has rolled back nearly 100 commonsense regulations and functionally rescinded environmental laws governing our health and safety — air pollution went up in 2017 and 2018 after decades of improvement, and Trump has stripped protections that keep our drinking water safe. He pulled out of the Paris Agreement and left a literal empty chair where the United States should have been at the most recent G-7 meeting on climate change.
Earth Day began as a day of organizing that demonstrated the power of community action. This year, it’s also a reminder of everything that’s on the line if we do not get Donald Trump out of the White House and restore critically needed American leadership to the global climate fight, and to clean and protect our air, water, and land. If we give Trump four more years in office at this critical juncture for our planet, there may be no recovering from the damage his dangerous dismissal of science and short-sightedness will inflict on all of us.