Prof. Caren Irr (ENG)

Going carbon neutral by 2050 is an excellent goal, and getting there even sooner would be even better. What really impresses me in Biden’s executive order, though, is the emphasis on forests.  Reforestation shows up in the climate crisis order in relation to carbon sequestration. It’s also part of the vision for a Civilian Climate Corps — a group I would have liked to join as a young person! Reforestation also features in conservation projects, wildfire management, international relations, job creation, environmental justice and improved access to recreation. Since an energy transition that moves from extraction of irreplaceable resources to clean and renewable energy is both essential and demanding, it needs a strong positive vision of the rewards to be reaped. Those rewards cannot only be pragmatic; they also have to be beautiful and sensuous. I can think of no more inspiring project for tackling climate issues than growing magnificent forests. Anybody who has participated in the hiking boom during the pandemic knows the restorative and invigorating power of a forest. I certainly see a lot more people exploring the woods on a frigid winter weekend than I have ever seen wandering around the edges of commercial refineries. There’s a good reason for that. Millions of people value forests for their rich and glorious variety as well as their effectiveness as carbon sinks. Putting public money into the public good of reforestation as this administration proposes to do seems exactly right. 

Caren Irr is a professor of English.


Prof. James Ji (ENVS)

I am excited to see President Biden’s plan on addressing the climate crisis. Given the limited set of policy tools at Biden’s disposal because of the congressional gridlock, I believe that Biden’s plan will at least get us back on the right track towards addressing the climate crisis. Biden has put forward a series of executive measures reversing the deregulatory approach adopted by the previous administration, many of which are scientifically baseless and ill-willed. In particular, it is refreshing to see science and technology at the center stage of the new administration’s policy platform, symbolized by the return of Gina McCarthy, a renowned environmental scientist and a champion for scientific policy making. Biden’s plan also involves the rapid scale-up for innovative technological developments in renewable energy, a measure that will likely incentivize innovation and creative destructions that make these technologies not only viable, but also marketable and appealing to consumers. While it is still politically infeasible to directly put a price on carbon at the national level, the Biden administration is taking active actions at multiple fronts to address the climate crisis. I am happy to wait and see how far they can go.

James Ji is a Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Environmental Economics.

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 Prof. Charles Chester (ENVS)

Biden’s focus on climate change brings to mind the aphorism: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Since carbon emissions remain at dangerous levels despite the “COVID credit,” it’s not wholly applicable to our situation. But, if we haven't actually stopped digging, we’ve at least stopped rushing overtime excavation crews to the bottom of the pit — and that’s a promising turn of events. Also promising is Biden’s focus on environmental justice, and the greatest test will be to maintain momentum on both fronts — indeed, an integrated approach to both climate change and environmental justice is what the climate justice movement is all about. One tool that the Biden administration has at its disposal is equitable carbon pricing, which can be defined as putting a price on carbon in a way that deliberately and effectively nullifies any regressive effects. While many in the climate justice community view such approaches as grossly insufficient (and, for good reason, distrust them as a legacy of neoliberal economics), I see them as insufficient but an important start. This is particularly true in a time when we need to be utilizing all tools that are amenable to reasonable individuals across the political spectrum. 

Charles Chester is a lecturer in Environmental Studies.


Prof. Sally Warner (ENVS)

President Biden has shown some promising first steps in fighting climate change by appointing a strong climate team to his administration, cancelling the Keystone pipeline, re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement and signing numerous other environmentally focused executive orders. But there is still so much that needs to be done. Trillions of dollars need to be invested in climate change solutions over the next few years. The most pressing investments include modernization of the electrical grid, acceleration of green energy generation, electrification of the transportation sector, improvements in building efficiency and reductions in emissions from agriculture. We know what the solutions are, and we have the technology to make them happen. Investments like these will generally pay off in the long run due to reduced operating costs and will help avoid huge disaster relief expenses in the future. The next few years should be an exciting time for Brandeis graduates who want to work in green energy and climate solutions sectors.

Most importantly, as all of this is happening, Biden must remember that communities of color, indigenous communities and low-income communities are going to be the most affected by climate change, while at the same time being the least able to deal with the consequences. It is imperative that climate change is fought in an equitable and just manner that puts the most vulnerable communities first.

Sally Warner is an assistant professor of Climate Science.


Angela Self ’22

While I applaud any and all efforts to combat climate change, I do find myself wary of the economic impact such policies will have on the everyday working household, especially in rural areas. I find that oftentimes it appears that policymakers create laws that favor urban communities at the expense of rural communities. One problem that Biden will have to overcome in the implementation of his plan is the loss of jobs that will burden working class families, specifically those who work for coal companies. If Biden is able to successfully provide alternative job training or something of the sort to these communities that will be hit the hardest, then I believe he would be able to get bipartisan support on his plan.

With that being said, I am in favor of putting climate change at the forefront of Biden’s agenda. Scientists have for years been warning about the destruction climate change is having on the environment. If the United States leads by example, then I hope that the rest of the world will follow. It will take a transnational effort to combat climate change, but at least this is a step in the right direction. 

Angela Self is a junior majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Religious Studies and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.