Election week: So ... what now?

The 2020 election (so far) leaves few certainties.

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)

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