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Biden and the 'Existential Threat'

Terence P. Jeffrey on

A 44-year-old senator went down the Senate floor on Jan. 29, 1987, to attack the Reagan administration for running up the debt and to warn the nation about "global warming."

His name was Joe Biden.

"This nation's perilous economic situation amply demonstrates the point," Biden said. "For six years, an administration policy of reflation through massive government borrowing has contributed to a sustained, if uneven, recovery -- and has therefore proven politically as well as economically expedient. Unfortunately, the negative effects of an accumulating national and international debt, while slow to manifest themselves, may eventually prove ruinous. Future administrations and future Congresses will be left to cope -- while cursing this generation's lack of economic foresight and responsibility."

Biden then turned to the issue he called "global warming."

"Global warming, should it occur in accord with the direst predictions, would be a catastrophe of Biblical proportions for the entire world," he said.

"The human activities that could bring it about -- the inefficient burning of fossil fuels, the atmospheric release of CFCs [chlorofluorocarbons], the destruction of tropical forests-are occurring right now," Biden said. "And unless these activities are changed in the next few years -- through sharply stepped-up energy conservation, restriction on CFC emissions, and preservation of tropical forests -- a disastrous and irreversible warming could become inevitable."

 

In December 2015, when Biden was vice president, the United Nations held the COP21 climate change conference in Paris that resulted in an international agreement. "The PA [Paris Agreement] requires that nations submit pledges to abate their GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, set goals to adapt to climate change, and cooperate toward these ends, including mobilization of financial and other support," explained the Congressional Research Service.

The People's Republic of China is a party to this agreement.

President Barack Obama, however, did not submit it to the Senate for ratification as a treaty. Instead, he unilaterally agreed to it as president. President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2020; Biden rejoined in 2021.

At a Democratic presidential primary debate on Nov. 19, 2019, Biden said of climate change: "I think it is the existential threat to humanity, It's the number-one issue."

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