Opinion: The Cut Inflation Act is a huge victory in this existential fight

To eliminate the disclaimers: this by no means solves the whole climate problem. We still need to do a lot more to get to zero carbon emissions. And we are still for more warming despite everything. Heat waves, wildfires, floods, and the rest of what we’re beginning to see as routine will get even worse for decades, at least. The bill also has negative points of a climatic point of viewlike his new offshore oil leases, presumably added to appease Senator Manchin, whose vote was crucial in passing the legislation.

Consider the story here. For nearly all of the 30-year history of international climate negotiations, the United States has been more of a problem for the rest of the world than the leader we should have been.

Congress has not found a way to ratify the Kyoto Protocol or any other agreement requiring real emissions reductions. The Waxman-Markey billthe last major climate legislation to be introduced in Congress at a time when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, passed the House and failed in the Senate in 2010in the face of a tough economic climate, intense lobbying from the fossil fuel industry, and opposition from the GOP (sound familiar?).
Then, in 2015, when Obama turned the tide and got the Paris Agreement through, he only specified voluntary contributions from participating nations, because that’s the only way he could avoid congressional approval, which surely would have killed him too. (Statements by President Donald Trump of the intention to withdraw from the agreement are hard to see as anything other than climate and treaty hatred, because you could actually stick to the deal without doing anything to reduce emissions.)
It has always seemed possible, even likely – depending on where one stands on the optimism/pessimism spectrum – that some nations will not meet their Paris commitments, or simply decide to reduce them by insignificant levels. The United States seemed to be one of the most likely candidates for such a failure, given our dysfunctional political system and the deep allegiance to the Republican Party to the fossil fuel industry.

Then, from the start of 2021, it looked like we might live up to the Paris Agreement after all… so no. The past year and a half has been a painful rollercoaster for those of us who care about the future of human beings and other species on planet Earth, and accept the global scientific consensus on how change climate threatens us.

When Democrats narrowly took the presidency and both houses of Congress in 2021, there was a period of hope that the ‘Build Back Better’ bill might pass, representing a major triumph for the climate movement and serving many other social justice goals. . But after a long period of impenetrable dithering, Manchin has pulled the rug out from under BBB, and seemingly any hope for meaningful climate legislation.

Why did Manchin finally change his mind and decide to support the Inflation Reduction Act? I don’t know, and I don’t care. The IRA may have lost a lot of the non-climate content from BBB, but it has most of the climate stuff. It is planned to deliver somewhere in the neighborhood of a 40% discount in the country’s carbon emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, mostly towards President Biden’s commitment of 50-52% over the same period.

It’s the real thing.

There has never – ever been – such substantial climate legislation passed in the United States. Not only do these emission reductions really matter in themselves, but they show that it is politically possible – that enough people care about the climate problem that it can be solved by our political system. And they allow us to look other nations in the eye as we ask them to do their part too.

On policy, the IRA does its job of tackling climate change primarily through investment, rather than regulation or taxes. It gives people and businesses money – some directly and some through tax breaks – to spend on electric cars, heat pumps, wind and solar power generation and many more. emission reduction measures.

It will stimulate growth and good jobs in the private sector. They will further reduce emissions, as technologies improve faster than they otherwise would. Perhaps the emerging industries will even gain political power comparable to that of the fossil fuel industry, creating a countervailing force. (We can dream.)

The United States is currently responsible for about 11% of global emissions, according to a report by the research and consulting company Rhodium Group. Reducing by 40% by 2030 is a significant contribution in itself. But to get to zero emissions globally, we’ll need the rest of the world, including countries like China and India, to agree to reductions as well. So far, our credibility in climate negotiations has been weak, due to our own poor track record (including our status as a responsible nation for most shows historicallywhen we add up all past years rather than just considering the most recent ones).
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The IRA transforms the United States from ineffective negotiators into leaders by example. And the technological development that the IRA investments will induce will facilitate the necessary global emissions reductions, in the same way that past investments in solar panels, for example, have lowers costs necessary technologies and increased their efficiency.
This investment approach reflects a shift in mindset in recent years among some climate policy pundits — notably those in the Biden administration — away from carbon taxes or cap and trade systems like the one who failed to become law in Waxman-Markey. This rethink places an increased emphasis on overcoming real-life political constraints, including the failure of Waxman-Markey himself and growing partisan polarization since then, with less emphasis on what economists’ models (which usually don’t hold regardless of politics) claim to be optimal. The passage of the IRA seems to have proved this right.

The focus was on Manchin, for obvious reasons, but it must be said: every Republican who voted against the IRA – that is, all of them – should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

Their repeated assertions about taxes and inflation cannot hide their real position: somewhere between categorical denial that the climate problem exists and its grudging recognition, coupled with stalling tactics and a complete lack of interest in doing anything about it. It may have strayed a bit from denial in recent years, but the practical result is still inaction. Manchin wouldn’t have mattered so much had a GOP senator shown any inclination to engage constructively.

No, the real change is that the Democratic Party, which for many years has been unwilling or unable to do much about climate change, has finally put it at the top of its agenda and mustered the will to do pass historic legislation come hell or high water.

This cannot be taken for granted for a microsecond. In my view, the youth climate movement – ​​along with its older allies – should get the lion’s share for increasing the pressure and bringing the issue to the forefront of people’s minds. (And, perhaps, let’s acknowledge the contributions of my colleagues, the hard-working scientists who have spent decades researching, writing papers, and compiling them into IPCC reports and national climate assessments for state the ever darker facts.)

But in a time when the twin, slow-moving disasters of American politics and the global climate crisis make it so painful for many of us to read the news every day, it’s important to take a moment and celebrate when something good happens. It is so something. It really is. Bravo, President Biden and his team – even Joe Manchin, who hesitated for many months to support such a bill – and everyone who pushed it to this point

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