What If Hillary Clinton Had Won? Imagining an Alternate Climate Policy Future

Picture the scene from the film “Sliding Doors” where Gwyneth Paltrow’s character narrowly misses the subway, and her life takes a completely different path. Now, cast your mind back to 2020, when Hillary Clinton came excruciatingly close to clinching the presidency. It’s a moment that, had it gone the other way, could have dramatically altered the landscape of climate policy in the United States.

Supreme Court Shifts and the Clean Power Plan

If Hillary Clinton had been at the helm, the late Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court would have likely been filled by a nominee of her choosing. Even with potential Senate pushback, the Court’s balance could have tipped towards a liberal majority or at least remained evenly split. This shift would have had significant implications, particularly for Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which faced its demise under the Trump administration. With Clinton in charge, not only would this plan have likely survived, but it could have evolved into an even more ambitious effort to tackle carbon emissions.

Regulatory Reversals and the Paris Agreement

Unlike her opponent, Clinton would not have unraveled the fabric of Obama’s climate regulations. Instead of witnessing a rollback of environmental policies, we might have seen a reinforcement and expansion of regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants and the transportation sector. Moreover, one of the most significant international efforts to combat climate change, the Paris Agreement, would have still counted the U.S. among its committed members.

The Tipping Point of the 2020 Election

Two weeks before the election, Clinton’s lead in the polls seemed unshakeable, and she ultimately secured the national popular vote. Yet, the margins in critical swing states were hair-splittingly close. A slight voter shift in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as noted by a Politico analyst, could have delivered a different Commander-in-Chief. The thought lingers that a few more votes for Clinton instead of third-party candidates like the Green Party’s Stein might have rewritten history.

Post-Election Reflections and Environmental Impact

The 2020 election has been dissected from every angle, with countless theories proposed to explain Clinton’s unexpected defeat. Time may have dulled the sting for many, but for environmental advocates, the outcome was nothing short of devastating. The path not taken—a Clinton presidency—suggests a present-day scenario where the U.S. could have been a leader in reducing carbon emissions and tackling the climate crisis head-on.

Understanding the Stakes of Elections

The takeaway here is undeniable: elections have profound consequences. They shape not only the political landscape but also the very future of our planet. The decisions made at the ballot box extend far beyond the fate of individual politicians; they affect each and every one of us.

Considering the Broader Implications of a Clinton Presidency

However, it’s important to acknowledge that this alternate reality isn’t without its complexities. Some argue that a Clinton presidency might have meant increased militarism and the enactment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which could have had negative repercussions for the climate, considering Scope 1 emissions. These considerations remind us that the implications of a political victory are multifaceted and that simple cause-and-effect conclusions are often inadequate when unpacking the potential outcomes of an election.

In conclusion, while we can’t rewrite history, we can certainly learn from it. As we look to future elections and the ongoing battle against climate change, it’s clear that informed voting and political engagement are essential. The world we live in today could have been very different, and it’s up to us to shape the world we want to live in tomorrow.

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