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Biden delivering speech in the White House

President Joe Biden delivers remarks and signs the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 into law in the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

This Is What a Whole-of-Government Climate Response Would Look Like

The climate crisis is affecting every single aspect of society, so every single part of the government should be doing everything it can to alleviate the pain.

Max Moran

On Monday, the Revolving Door Project released a report seven months in the making: a comprehensive look at un- or under-utilized executive branch powers to combat climate change, hold big polluters accountable, and make a tangible difference in the environment and economy for ordinary Americans. Our press release on the report is here, and a two-page summary of some of the highlights is here.

The executive branch can combat climate change, hold big polluters accountable, and make a tangible difference in the environment and economy for ordinary Americans.

Three of the co-authors—Toni Aguilar Rosenthal, Max Moran, and Aidan Smith of Data For Progress (who contributed in a personal capacity)— sat down with Allyson Chiu of the Washington Post to chat about the report too. Like they said, none of the proposals in the report are, on their own, sufficient to bring the U.S. in line with its climate goals or prevent the worst effects of climate change. There is no One Weird Trick to prevent societal collapse. But everything in the report is a necessary component of that transformation. And when Congress does pass a Green New Deal, it’ll still be up to the executive branch to actually implement the suite of bills.

We deliberately looked beyond the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior in the report. Whenever we or others have proposed integrating climate concerns into other parts of the administrative state over the last few years, a chorus of conservatives and centrists have scoffed that well, actually, that would be overreach because those other agencies don’t have the word “environment” in their name. (Really insightful, guys.) 

Unfortunately, climate change doesn’t work like that. It’s already affecting every single aspect of society, so every single part of the government should be doing what it can do to alleviate the pain through its powers and mandates. More broadly, we want to encourage readers to think about the executive branch holistically. Corporate capture of one part of the bureaucracy tends to have spillover effects on the rest of the government, but the reverse is also true: real leaders in one part of the administration can up the bar for their colleagues, and all of society benefits as a result.

We also don’t claim that this report is exhaustive or all-inclusive. For one, scholars are thinking of new, creative ways to apply existing, Congressionally authorized state power to the climate crisis every day, and we hope that work like this will inspire even more creativity and scholarship.

Moreover, our peers at other organizations have put out other, fantastic reports on other executive branch approaches to these problems — we especially strongly endorse the Center for Biological Diversity’s report on declaring a climate emergency. Our report is additive to that work, not competitive with it. (A true “all-of-the-above” climate strategy, if you will, minus the murderous indulgence of the fossil fuel industry.)

The executive branch can combat climate change, hold big polluters accountable, and make a tangible difference in the environment and economy for ordinary Americans. It can—and it must.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Max Moran

Max Moran

Max Moran is a research assistant at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

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