Election 2020 Count every vote

Election week: So ... what now?

On Wednesday, the United States completed the three-year process of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. Even with a Biden-Harris victory (which looks increasingly certain as I write this), the U.S. would rejoin the Paris process as something of a reprobate rather than a leader.


Let's go over the precious few certainties in the 2020 election—assuming the apparent victories of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris hold up. (When news organizations projected a Biden-Harris victory Saturday, the President-Elect tweeted a promise that he'd restore the U.S. involvement in the Paris process on his first day in office.)

The Democrats oozed cheerful confidence that they'd overtake the Senate and maybe even slay a few political giants like Lindsey Graham and even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. No such luck. Not even close. Even "moderate" Senator Susan Collins, seemingly written off by both parties, handily kept her job. This gives us four years' worth of Joe Biden guiding a gridlocked government.

Undoing Donald Trump's four years of environmental rollbacks and staff cuts wouldn't be easy under any circumstances. Trump and McConnell's roaring success at loading three levels of federal courts will have impacts for decades.

As federal environmental enforcement languished, more and more enforcement burden fell on already-stressed state agencies. Exhaustion of state government coffers—notably to battle both the medical and economic sides of COVID-19—will further cripple state efforts.

If Biden is certified as the winner, a flurry of lawsuits, recount demands, unhinged tweets, and more are sure to follow. And Trump's potential for writing last-minute Executive Orders will tax the imagination. (Both parties do this; Bill Clinton's "Roadless Rule" on National Forests is a prime example for Democrats.)

Finally: Indulge me on this one, it's kind of personal.

On November 17, the Benjamin Franklin of climate denial turns 86. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) just cruised to his fifth full-term victory, beating political novice Abby Broyles by a two-to-one margin.

Which means that on November 17, 2034, his 100th birthday, the Senator has agreed to a sit-down with me to see how his "climate hoax" is going. We left a few details unresolved. Is it 10:30 AM Eastern Time, assuming he's still ensconced in Washington in his seventh term? Or kicking back in Tulsa, which would be Central Time? And have we gone to all-year Daylight Savings Time by then? Is the Senator still alive at 100? Will this reporter make it to age 77? Will Capitol Hill (elevation ~79 feet above current sea level) be Capitol Island? Will Tulsa still be above sea level? (At 722' above current sea level, I think we're good on this one.)

As I read this, I'll cut the Senator a break on the Ben Franklin analogy. Inhofe truly acts and looks 20 years younger than an 86 year-old has any business looking and acting.

History remembers Franklin as a creaky, gout-ridden hulk whose science helped us unravel the mysteries of electricity and meteorology, including discovery of the Gulf Stream. He also carried out a mission for the French Crown to expose Franz Mesmer, a physician who coaxed a ton of money out of wealthy Parisian hypochondriacs with mesmerization, an early and ultimately fully discredited form of hypnotism.

Now there's a guy I'd love to interview about climate denial.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo: Pro-Democracy protests in Washington DC on November 4. (Credit: GeoffLivingston/flickr)

The 2020 election (so far) leaves few certainties.

As flood risk rises, vulnerable communities weigh government buyouts

A South Carolina neighborhood where residents are considering buyouts of their flood-prone homes embodies the quandary that a growing number of communities will face in the years ahead.
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

The greening of coal country

In West Virginia, mining has long been a source of money, identity and pride. Now something new is on the horizon.

United States of megadrought

Drought has engulfed large swaths of the country, threatening parts of the nation’s food and power supply. And it’s getting worse.

Amazon rainforest & Brazil politics
jai Mansson/Flickr

The burning question

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most important natural assets on the planet. As Brazilians head to the polls later this month, the question is whether protecting this environmental gem will trump economic pressures.

Eastern Kentuckians face paperwork, hurdles as they rebuild flooded homes

Thousands of eastern Kentucky homes were damaged by July’s record flooding. Many began to rebuild, but quickly ran into red tape.
From our Newsroom
Op-ed: On climate protests, the media misses the point

Op-ed: On climate protests, the media misses the point

What does van Gogh matter to billions of victims of climate inaction?

EPA Michael Regan

EPA's chemical safety rule tests the Biden administration’s commitment to environmental justice

"Cure never happens, prevention never happens in a community where people are sacrificed for others’ gain."

Chemical recycling grows  along with concerns of its impacts

Chemical recycling grows — along with concerns about its environmental impacts

Industry says chemical recycling could solve the plastic waste crisis, but environmental advocates and some lawmakers are skeptical.

Failure of the universities: The culture gap is now near lethal

Universities are failing us

Our educational systems are failing to prepare people for existential environmental threats

Shell's new petrochemical complex in southwestern Pennsylvania

The Titans of Plastic

Pennsylvania becomes the newest sacrifice zone for America’s plastic addiction.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.