Biden Comes Out on Top. Now, the Really Hard Part.

Welcome to the Climate Fwd: newsletter. This week, we continue The Greenhouse, our digital event series on climate change. Join us for a live video call this Friday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern with Times journalists Josh Haner and Derek Watkins to discuss visual journalism and its power to document climate change. If you missed last Friday’s call on climate change in the age of the coronavirus, you can view it here.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. got two big endorsements this week: One from his old boss, former President Barack Obama, the other from his last challenger for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders.

While the nod from Mr. Obama got a lot of attention, the one from Senator Sanders is no less important. That’s because Democratic unity will be key in November. Many supporters of Senator Sanders aren’t so sure that Mr. Biden will embrace the most progressive positions on climate change.

In an online appearance on Monday with Mr. Biden, Senator Sanders made a bid for Democratic solidarity and declared President Trump “the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.”

Senator Sanders, who suspended his campaign last week, told Mr. Biden: “We need you in the White House. I will do all that I can to see that that happens, Joe.”

Mr. Biden vowed that the United States would “take a back seat to no one when it comes to fighting climate change.”

But winning over Senator Sanders’s most ardent supporters might still be a challenge for Mr. Biden.

Just a few hours before Senator Sanders’s announcement, for instance, I spoke with the leaders of The Climate Mobilization, an advocacy group that has worked closely with Mr. Sanders. The group’s director of research, Laura Berry, said Mr. Biden needed to offer more details.

“What the climate movement is looking for is for him to back up the rhetoric of saying things like ‘We need to get off fossil fuels’ with specific plans,” Ms. Berry said. “We don’t have any time left. We are in a climate emergency.”

And even as progressives try to push Mr. Biden leftward, President Trump is attacking from the right. In an email blast on Monday, the Trump campaign attacked Mr. Biden for vowing to phase out fossil fuels, telling supporters in an email that the former vice president would sacrifice energy jobs and ban fossil fuels in pursuit of an “extreme environmental agenda.”

Even some Democrats in key swing states like Pennsylvania have said they oppose aggressive efforts to eliminate natural gas development.

Those two positions reflect the challenge that Mr. Biden, who has called climate change an existential threat, faces: Drawing both progressives and moderate Republicans his way.


It can be hard to process any more bad news right now. But the climate fight won’t be over when this pandemic is. While you needn’t feel constantly productive in these stressful times, you might still be wondering how to stay environmentally engaged. If you’ve done what you can to support those affected by the coronavirus — and have the privilege of staying home with newfound time — why not tick a few items off your carbon-footprint-reduction checklist? Here are some ideas.

Program your thermostat: Although an estimated 41 percent of Americans have programmable thermostats, just 12 percent actually program them. By setting yours to automatically change with the time and season, Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said you could reduce “heating and cooling emissions by 15 percent.”

Get cleaner power: Research solar panels (some companies are promoting contact-free installations) and community solar. Or, if you live in a deregulated energy state, look into switching to a green provider.

Kill energy vampires: Nearly 5 percent of our total residential electricity usage comes from devices that stay plugged in when they’re not being used. So Dr. Ekwurzel suggested putting devices on a single power strip that you can easily switch off.

Adjust your water heater: According to the Department of Energy, lowering the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit from 140 degrees (or to about 50 Celsius from 60) could reduce its annual energy usage by as much as 22 percent.

Experiment with climate-friendly recipes: Going vegetarian could reduce your food-related footprint by a third — but even if you’re a devoted carnivore, Dr. Ekwurzel said simply eating less meat “makes a big difference over the long run.” To stay stocked on produce, search for farmers’ markets near you; many remain open or are offering online ordering. (GrowNYC has a list of area farmers with delivery or pickup.) Adding frozen veggies to your grocery list isn’t a bad idea, either.

Join a C.S.A.: As another way to avoid “buying agricultural products that have been flown around the world,” Laurel Hanscom, chief executive officer of the Global Footprint Network, recommended subscribing to a community supported agriculture program. (Just note that, if spring hasn’t yet sprung in your region, it may be a while before your first delivery!)

Compost: The Environmental Protection Agency says food is the biggest single contributor to our landfills, constituting an incredible “22 percent of discarded municipal solid waste.” Keep your scraps out of the landfill by (finally!) starting a compost pile.

Go paperless: Spend 20 minutes registering for digital statements from all of your accounts. While you’re at it, reduce your unwanted junk mail, too.

Buy carbon offsets: Remember when traveling was a thing? Well now is the perfect opportunity to purchase offsets for prior adventures.

Get educated: Use your downtime to catch up on climate change books, documentaries and podcasts.

Make your voice heard: Ms. Hanscom urged readers to “encourage your representatives to fight for climate-forward policies in the bailouts and stimulus packages.” (Luckily, you can do that from the couch.)

However you spend these next few weeks and months, Ms. Hanscom said the coronavirus has shown us “how connected we all are in terms of our decisions.” So, moving forward, she said, it’s important to ask: “How can we take these lessons to thoughtfully bring ourselves, humanity and the planet, back into balance?”