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Biden announces modest steps to fight climate’s ‘clear and present danger’

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SOMERSET, Mass. — President Joe Biden sought to keep his faltering climate change agenda alive Wednesday after bruising defeats in Congress and at the Supreme Court, and he vowed to take matters into his own hands as heatwave records topple in the U.S. and Europe and his climate goals drift further out of reach.

For now, those steps will be modest: Biden’s administration will clear the way for new offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, he announced during a visit at a former coal-burning power plant in Somerset, Mass. And the government will spend $2.3 billion to bolster communities’ defenses against climate change and make it easier for low-income households to purchase efficient air conditioners to combat searing heat.

Those are far smaller steps than the ones he promised when he ran for the White House two years ago, when he vowed to put the U.S. at the forefront of the international effort to limit warming.

Biden framed the fight against the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet as one of his highest priorities, alongside combating the pandemic.

But those ambitions suffered a major blow last week when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) rejected plans to spend $300 billion to expand clean energy incentives. And last month, the Supreme Court erected legal obstacles to the federal government’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide from power plants, the second largest source of the greenhouse gas.

“As president, I have a responsibility to act with urgency and resolve when our nation faces clear and present danger. And that’s what climate change is about. It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger,” Biden said.

His comments come as more than 100 million Americans swelter under 100-degree temperatures and European nations face record heat. The Western U.S. is suffering from the worst megadrought in 1,200 years, drying up reservoirs and slowing the flow of the Colorado River that supplies water to tens of millions of people.

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