Climate change

The Looming US “Carbon Bomb”: A Critical Test for Biden’s Climate Commitment

US. In a momentous agreement last month in Dubai, governments worldwide pledged to transition away from fossil fuels, recognizing the urgent need to address the escalating climate crisis.

Now, the Biden administration is confronted with a defining test of its commitment to this scientific imperative – a colossal proposed expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities in the United States.

President Joe Biden wields executive authority to either approve or block these facilities, a decision that could significantly influence his climate reputation, especially among the crucial demographic of young voters, and potentially impact his chances of reelection.

Climate activist Bill McKibben, a prominent voice in the climate movement, has underscored the gravity of this decision, characterizing the proposed buildout of LNG exports on the Gulf Coast as potentially the largest carbon bomb on the planet – one that could be relatively easy to defuse if the administration is genuinely committed to transitioning away from fossil fuels.

McKibben’s concerns emanate from the fact that, since 2016, the US has constructed numerous gas export terminals, effectively locking in shipments of fossil fuels for decades to come.

 By 2022, the US had solidified its position as the world’s largest LNG exporter, and currently, at least 20 more terminals are awaiting approval from the Biden administration.

In a pointed December open letter to President Biden, a group of scientists emphasized the gravity of the situation, warning that if all the US projects in the permitting pipeline are greenlit, they could result in an alarming 3.9 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

This staggering figure surpasses the entire annual emissions of the European Union and underscores the urgent need to reconsider the decision to expand LNG facilities. The scientific consensus calls for halving all fossil fuel emissions by 2030 and eliminating them entirely by 2050 to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

The fossil fuel industry has long peddled the narrative that natural gas serves as a “bridge fuel” between coal and renewables, a claim that has influenced public opinion over the past couple of decades.

However, a forthcoming study by Cornell University’s Robert Howarth challenges this narrative, revealing that total greenhouse gas emissions from LNG are more significant than those from domestically produced coal, ranging from 18% to 185% greater.

Moreover, the proposed LNG expansion does not align with the self-interest of either President Biden or American consumers. Since these facilities are explicitly intended to export US gas to overseas customers, the likely economic consequence would be an increase in gas prices domestically.

Already, the export of gas has contributed to higher winter heating bills, and further approval of terminals could exacerbate this issue. The administration’s decision last year not to contest the Willow Project had already tarnished Biden’s reputation as a climate-conscious president, with reports suggesting that young voters are growing increasingly disillusioned with concessions made to the oil and gas industry.

In response to these pressing concerns, activists are mobilizing against the potential new LNG export terminals. A planned sit-in at the Department of Energy in early February aims to bring attention to the urgency of the situation and to hold decision-makers accountable.

Acknowledging the mounting pressure, the Biden administration announced last week its intention to reassess the criteria used to evaluate gas export projects. As the story unfolds, political spin is inevitable, but one undeniable fact remains – the planet cannot withstand the impact of this carbon bomb.

Audiences deserve clear-eyed reporting that sheds light on the urgency of the situation and holds leaders accountable for their climate commitments.

The decisions made in the coming weeks will not only define President Biden’s legacy but will also shape the trajectory of global efforts to combat climate change. The world is watching, and the stakes are high.

A failure to act decisively against this looming carbon bomb could jeopardize not only the environment but also the trust and support of a generation that demands meaningful action on climate change.

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