joe biden state of the union

Peter Dykstra: SOTU, IPCC, AWOL, and an OMG

An avalanche of major news stories kick climate and environment to the curb. Again.

Joe Biden broke with tradition in his State of the Union address by offering more than a throwaway platitude or two on climate change.


Here are three past examples from consecutive decades:

  • In 1984, Ronald Reagan said “Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.”
  • In Bill Clinton’s first State of the Union speech in 1993, the Democratic president was moved to speak ill of a blockbuster environmental law. "I'd like to use that Superfund to clean up pollution for a change and not just pay lawyers."
  • And in 2006, George W. Bush looked America in the eye and pronounced his nation “addicted to oil.”

Those are my favorites among many broken SOTU vows. Of course, Reagan’s call for eco-unity came when he had already appointed uber-divisive souls like James Watt at the Department of the Interior and Anne Gorsuch at the Environmental Protection Agency. Clinton’s Superfund vow is still largely unfulfilled by either party.

And Bush’s oil addiction? Puh-leeze.

Climate crickets

On Monday, the scientists on the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) served up their most stark, incontrovertible, poop-in-your-pants outlook on the certainties of the climate crisis.

The world filed it behind Ukraine, COVID, and other more recent hair-on-fire issues on the action list. And maybe that’s where it belongs—for a couple of weeks at most.

The next AWOL

We’re just now coming to terms with the plastic crisis, as nations signed on to the beginning of a treaty process that will stop kicking the PET bottle down the road in 2024.

In the meantime, one estimate says we each ingest a credit card’s worth of microplastics each week. Think of a stack of 104 credit cards in your innards until the treaty kicks in ...

And finally, a big OMG

I’ve had an occasional, surprisingly good-natured back-and-forth with Senator Jim Inhofe, unofficial Dean of the Congressional Climate Denial Caucus.

To be fair, Inhofe can be courtly and good-natured, even in dialogue with those who think his views on climate change are based more on hallucination than on science. And maybe it’s in that spirit that he accepted my request for an interview on what he calls the climate “hoax.” On Friday November 17, 2034, at 10:30am ET, assuming we’re both alive, I’ll interview the ex-Senator on the occasion of his 100th birthday as to how the hoax is going.

Perhaps understandably, Inhofe’s announcement last week that he’s leaving the Senate at year’s end was a full fledged OMG. He’ll turn 88 before heading home to the only American state with an oil derrick on the Capitol’s front lawn.

Maybe he’ll take the time to notice that Oklahoma is the only state, as the hit Broadway musical tells us, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.

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 credit: Joe Biden/Youtube

republican climate change denial
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson. (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Opinion: House Speaker Mike Johnson’s climate change playbook — deny the science, take the funding

The two-faced charade of climate denial while diving into the pot of federal renewable incentives and tax breaks.

It took no time for Mike Johnson to establish a hefty carbon footprint as new Speaker of the House.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Lake Winnipesaukee
Image by John French from Pixabay

Climate change impacting Lake Winnipesaukee ice-out and ice-in dates

Climate change is impacting weather patterns all around us, including milestones at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire's largest body of water.

global warming
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

2023 is about to smash the record for the hottest year

For the sixth month in a row, Earth set a new monthly record for heat, and also added the hottest autumn to the litany of record-breaking heat this year, the European climate agency calculated.

Seeking higher ground: Western resorts take skiers where the snow is

New terrain development at ski resorts, primarily in Colorado, aims to chase and preserve snow, an invaluable commodity.
electric vehicle charger
Photo by Robert Linder on Unsplash

Biden’s EV tax credit rules are finally here

A year after the federal government promised new rules governing how electric vehicles can qualify for tax credits, the Treasury Department’s official guidance is finally here.

cop28
Big Stock Photo

Who is pledging climate finance at COP28, and how much?

At this year's U.N. climate summit, countries, development institutions and businesses are pledging more money for everything from the energy transition to health care initiatives, technology investments, disaster relief and more.

Least-studied areas of Brazilian Amazon at high risk from climate change

In the Brazilian Amazon, between 15 and 18% of the areas most overlooked by research are at high risk of severe climate and land-use changes by 2050, according to a new study.

From our Newsroom
childrens health climate change

Delays in joining the RGGI regional climate program means excess ER visits and child illness in Pennsylvania

Up to 128 premature deaths from air pollution could have been prevented if the state had entered the program in 2022 as planned.

environmental justice

LISTEN: Carlos Gould on wildfire smoke and our health

“Information matters a lot — trying to explain not just that there’s a problem, but how to do something about it.”

fracking PFAS

“Forever chemicals” in Pennsylvania fracking wells could impact health of surrounding communities: Report

More than 5,000 wells in the state were injected with 160 million pounds of undisclosed, “trade-secret” chemicals, which potentially include PFAS.

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

Poor recordkeeping on hazardous waste disposal points to potential for bigger problems, according to a new study.

drought climate farming

Opinion: Climate change and soil loss — the new Dust Bowl?

How we can save our soil, stabilize the climate, and prevent a new Dust Bowl.

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