M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 170

Congress at a Climate Crossroads: Legislative Pathways for Decarbonization in the United States

Myer Jei Johnson-Potter

2021 John Dunlop Undergraduate Thesis Prize Honorable Mention



On November 3rd, 2020 the world watched the results of the U.S. 2020 election trickle in with bated breath. Through the duration of the campaign, pundits, policy experts, politicians, and activists repeatedly commented on the unprecedented stakes of the election. In the year leading up to the election, the U.S. underwent the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a prolonged economic crisis, a national reckoning on racial injustice and record-breaking protests, the first impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, catastrophic wildfires, and the most active hurricane season in recorded history. Many constituencies and interest groups certainly had much to win or lose during this election cycle, but the implications of the Presidential and U.S. Senate elections were particularly pronounced for those hoping that the United States would rejoin its international partners in the battle to solve the climate crisis. The very next day after the election, the U.S. was set to become the first country to formally withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which made the stakes of the election for the future of American climate policy even more starkly apparent.

Download the paper in PDF format