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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.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

General Motors puts Trump in its rearview mirror

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

General Motors (GM) is racing to prepare itself for a president and a world that takes climate change more seriously — and putting the Trump era behind them in the process.

Driving the news: GM yesterday announced an ambitious plan to end global sales of internal combustion vehicles by 2035. It's part of their wider new pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — considered the world's largest by volume. Park officials wrapped the trees in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. And officials said early Sunday protection efforts appeared to be working.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. drone strike victims' families in Afghanistan seek compensation

A relative of Ezmarai Ahmadi, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike, looks at the wreckage of a vehicle that was damaged in the strike in the Kwaja Burga neighbourhood of Kabul on Saturday. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi AFP via Getty Images

Relatives of 10 Afghans killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul last month said Saturday they want to see punishment and compensation over the deaths.

Driving the news: The relatives said it's "good news" that the U.S. had "officially admitted" that "they had attacked innocents" in the Aug. 29 strike that killed Zamarai Ahmadi, an aid worker with a U.S.-based group, and nine family members, but they still need "justice," per AFP.