Originally published in the Indiana Environmental Reporter on October 27, 2020

The 2020 presidential election is days away, and on the ballot is the course of the nation. Americans will choose whether they want to remain on the path plotted by the incumbent or whether it’s time for a sea change and a new captain at the helm.

The effects of climate change, like rising temperature averages, increased precipitation and more frequent natural disasters, are being felt in Indiana and throughout the U.S., bringing environmental policy to the forefront.

National and local researchers have found that most Americans, including a vast majority of Hoosiers, believe climate change is happening, is caused in some part by human activity and will be a serious problem for the US and the world.

The presidential candidates, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, have differing philosophies on many topics, especially when it comes to environmental policy. 

Trump has favored fossil fuel-friendly deregulation that has weakened existing environmental policies, including foundational laws. His administration has also directly targeted climate change regulations, including various rules regarding greenhouse gas emissions, and has promised to do more of the same.

The Biden campaign said it seeks to ensure the U.S. has a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050 by investing $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years and changing Trump policies.

With those intentions on the ballot, the Indiana Environmental Reporter asked the leaders of several environmental organizations what they hoped would be the environmental priorities for the next four years. 

SHANNON ANDERSON - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, EARTH CHARTER INDIANA

"-Make a national emergency effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through transitioning our energy sector to renewable energy, deploying more distributed renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives, decarbonizing agriculture and building soil health, electrifying transportation systems, reducing waste streams, conserving water and creating circular economies.

-Address environmental justice and toxic legacy pollution in vulnerable communities by making sure those people benefit from clean energy, green jobs and natural restoration efforts.

-Prepare for climate impacts, especially in frontline communities, to preserve human health and safety and protect species and habitats as much as possible."

JANET MCCABE - DIRECTOR, INDIANA UNIVERSITY’S ENVIRONMENTAL RESILIENCE INSTITUTE

“-Restore the proper place of science in agency decision-making.
-Focus on climate change programs and policies — there is no time to lose.
-Implement the nation’s environmental laws with a focus on public health protection and addressing environmental justice challenges.”

GABRIEL FILIPPELLI - DIRECTOR, IUPUI CENTER FOR URBAN HEALTH

“A return to the Paris Climate Treaty is priority number one, as it allays concerns of our international partners that we are not leading on climate change action. With China and Europe both forwarding ambitious plans, the US now has no national plan whatsoever. We need to get back into Paris and work hard this decade to achieve our emission reduction priorities.

The second environmental action is to phase out subsidies for fossil fuel production and use. These subsidies are huge, and they continue to prop up a polluting industry that we need to transition away from, and quickly.

A third action is to effectively abolish all of the environmental rollbacks of policies that have occurred in this administration. Scores of environmental policies developed and implemented under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts have been removed from the books, or at least have been temporarily lifted, resulting in the potential for significant environmental degradation. Corporations had already learned to live with the protective policies -- rolling them back only resulted in market uncertainty.”

JESSE KHARBANDA - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HOOSIER ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL

“-Enable the EPA to make entirely science-based decisions, carried out by experienced, professionally trained, properly funded civil servants, free from political interference. This will ensure, for example, that dangerous herbicides and pesticides have strong public health safeguards that protect workers, kids, and others most vulnerable to exposure. 

-Direct the EPA to place special priority on assisting low-income communities, whether urban or rural. Such communities bear a disproportionate burden of exposure to particulate matter and air toxics and a disproportionate burden of exposure to contaminated groundwater (from sources ranging from brownfields in urban areas to factory farm waste, agrochemicals, and leaking septic systems in rural areas).

-Use the prestige of the presidency to build broad-based support for putting a price on carbon, such that any tax on carbon is entirely offset by a reduction in income taxes.”

BOWDEN QUINN - CHAPTER DIRECTOR, SIERRA CLUB HOOSIER CHAPTER

“Biden should focus on undoing as much of the environmental harm that the Trump administration has done over the past four years as possible (some of the damage can never be undone). Priority one should be taking steps to address climate change. These should include recommitting to the Paris Agreement and increasing our carbon reduction goals, increasing vehicle emission standards and phasing out coal combustion for electricity. 

The second priority for a Biden Administration should be restoring protections for federal property and prohibiting mining and drilling from our cherished public lands. 

The third priority should be restoring the integrity and the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies, removing the political hacks and corporate cronies who have been put in charge and replacing them with qualified professionals.”