President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced in a tweet Nov. 4 that he would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office.

“Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement,” Biden’s tweet said. “And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.”

The Paris Climate Agreement was a voluntary accord signed in 2015 by almost 200 countries. Countries pledged to take preventative measures like reducing emissions and transitioning to greener energy to keep global warming below 1.5˚C until the year 2100 (although no concrete steps were agreed to). The U.S. joined the agreement under President Barack Obama, but President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. from the agreement on June 17, 2017, claiming that the agreement was unfair and would hurt the U.S. economy.

According to visiting Northwestern environmental policy and culture professor Wil Burns, the U.S. rejoining such a landmark climate coalition is essential to preventing irreversible climate catastrophe.

“It sends a clear message that the U.S. acknowledges the fact that we need to work within an international framework, as the leading industrial producer of greenhouse gases, to try to address what is the gravest existential threat to the environment that exists,” Burns said. “ I think it'll be extremely helpful for us to be back within that framework.”

The U.S. produces 1/7 of all global emissions, according to the United Nations Foundation. This means that the impact of U.S. involvement is especially significant when fighting climate change.

Now only about 10 years away from when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we need to reduce global emissions by half, Burns said it is more important than ever that the U.S.  has a president who takes climate change seriously.

“When you have a president that no longer characterizes climate change as a scientific hoax, that doesn't communicate that the Chinese are trying to use this as a way to economically undermine the United States … it's going to change attitudes,” Burns said.

Along with rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, Biden has a full climate plan laid out on his website. In his plan, Biden says he will ensure net-zero emissions and 100% clean energy by 2050, employ the help of other nations in fighting climate change and take into account how climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income communities.

Much of the conservative rhetoric around climate change has pitted working-class people against reducing carbon output due to the threat of job loss. Biden’s fact sheet refutes this claim by including the addition of 10 million jobs in the clean energy sector.

Now, Burns said, it is up to Biden and the rest of his party to convince every American that solving climate change will improve their lives.

“The American people are amenable to hearing that we need to roll up our sleeves and really address climate change,” Burns said. “I think President Biden will provide that kind of leadership.”

Thumbnail photo "L’École polytechnique et toute la communauté se réunissent pour célébrer 225 ans d’histoire, de cohésion, de progrès scientifique et d’excellence académique" by Ecole polytechnique / Paris / France is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0