Nov 4, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Climate's role in the chaotic election

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Should Joe Biden ultimately win the White House, his climate agenda will almost certainly be limited — at least for the foreseeable future — to what he can pursue using executive powers.

The state of play: While several Senate races are outstanding, Democrats look unlikely to regain the majority in that chamber despite pickups in Colorado and Arizona, which aren't enough.

  • "If we see a Biden administration, it seems clean energy initiatives will be met with strong Senate opposition," Oanda analyst Edward Moya said in a note Wednesday.
  • And remember that sweeping regulations could land before the Supreme Court with its 6-3 conservative majority.

The big picture: Climate and energy were very much on the ballot. That's due to the huge policy chasm between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, but also how the topics surfaced repeatedly in the campaign.

  • Biden placed climate change among the four "historic crises" facing the country, and his campaign featured multiple ads about it, although he gave even more emphasis to other topics like the pandemic and the economy nonetheless.
  • Trump made fracking and attacks on Biden's posture a major part of his closing arguments in the campaign's final stretch.
  • The two presidential debates and the VP debate all featured segments on the topic, a break with past cycles.

Where it stands: An NBC exit poll found two-thirds of voters consider climate a serious problem, and Biden won 68% of them on his way to a popular vote advantage thus far.

  • A Morning Consult exit survey showed that 74% of Biden's voters called addressing climate change very important to their vote, compared to 19% of Trump voters.
  • Worth noting: Exit polls should always be taken with chunks of salt!

Yes, but: It was pretty clear Biden's team saw some jeopardy, too.

  • Biden repeatedly emphasized that he's not looking for an outright ban on fracking, which Trump inaccurately called part of his platform.
  • I'll be curious to see how post-mortems show the topic affected things in Pennsylvania, which remains outstanding, and Texas, which Trump won again but by a narrower margin than in 2016.

Quick take: It's early, but for now, color me skeptical that we're in a new political era in which an aggressive climate platform is the ticket to a big win in our Electoral College system.

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