No, Climate Crisis Didn't Go Away Because the IRA Became Law
Some of the public and media discourse is under the mistaken assumption that climate crisis is now taken care of because the Inflation Reduction Act is now law & we fixed it. Nope, sorry, we didn't.
There’s mythology spreading that the climate crisis, magically, disappeared once President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which is now the Inflation Reduction Law. That impression, clearly, won’t match with current planet-melting reality. Even as the “IRA” - including what is regarded as the U.S. government’s single largest climate crisis response investment at nearly $400 billion - was signed into law by Biden, the federal government was announcing historic mandatory water cuts on multiple Western states as droughts intensify, heat waves were burning major cities in the U.S., Europe, Asia and elsewhere into unhealthy crisps, and more trees are growing in the Artic as essential polar ice is now melting at quadruple the rate than previously forecasted. Climate crisis didn’t go anywhere: It’s not only here, it’s accelerating and we’re all moving a bit too slow towards the transformation and overhaul of capitalism needed to stop it from unleashing further apocalypse.
Some thoughts on that climate crisis investment …
So, yes, true: Passage of the #InflationReductionAct is a very solid first & positive step in the right direction. Still: 1) we needed this, like, decades ago. What took folks so long? Politics, capitalism and fascism. And: 2) racial equity is, once again, not centered or showcased in the climate-related provisions. Finally, once again: no, 3) Congress and the President did not just save the planet. They were productive, but we all still have a lot of work to do.
Reservations aside, this was a tremendous lift of legislative accomplishment. But legislative accomplishments along don’t save a planet. We hope the good in it outweighs what’s missing: We’re not sure once we read this AP take ….
The climate measure President Joe Biden signed Tuesday bypasses the administration’s concerns about emissions and guarantees new drilling opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. The legislation was crafted to secure backing from a top recipient of oil and gas donations, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, and was shaped in part by industry lobbyists.
While the Inflation Reduction Act concentrates on clean energy incentives that could drastically reduce overall U.S. emissions, it also buoys oil and gas interests by mandating leasing of vast areas of public lands and off the nation’s coasts. And it locks renewables and fossil fuels together: If the Biden administration wants solar and wind on public lands, it must offer new oil and gas leases first.
Fighting climate crisis is going to require more than legislative wins - it's going to require very immediate & extremely radical shifts in our collective culture and personal sacrifice, too. Most people don’t want to hear it, but we’re all going to have to give up some of our more wasteful and dangerous fossil-fuel driven consumer habits just as much as we need to defund and dismantle the fossil-fuel industry dealers who keep selling this destructive capitalist drug to us.
Meanwhile, nearly $400 billion in *direct* spending on #climatecrisis is significant. Biden is the first president to go this big on direct climate investments, already proposing a hike on that by 60% for the FY2023 budget ...
The nearly $400B in the #InflationReductionAct is, actually, in addition to 2) climate crisis spending in the $1.5 trillion omnibus federal budget just passed in March to fund the Federal govt through the rest of FY2022.
Still: Biden wanted a $3 trillion investment for this bill. So, this nearly $400 billion investment is just 13 percent of what the Biden White House requested … but thanks to the Senators Manchin and Sinema’s usual wicked interventions, it got cut down. Broadly, this law is more of a confidence boost to give us a sample of what’s possible or something of a policy map on how to achieve future legislative wins.
Keep in mind: as a planet, we need a combined $4.1 trillion PER YEAR between now and 2030 (or $32 trillion over less than a decade) to make the transition necessary to prevent the most apocalyptic impacts of #climatecrisis, according to the Climate Policy Initiative.
According to the federal Government Accounting Office, up until now, the U.S. had only spent $154 billion on direct climate action ... since 1993. That's just $5 billion/year over the last 30 years. Despite being the largest economy (& the largest carbon emitter), this is pitiful. We need more ...
So, no, everyone: the #InflationReductionAct did not just save us from climate destruction. We wish. But, it its passage did show that elections do matter: if Democrats did NOT have control of the House, technical tie-breaking control of the Senate & full occupancy of the White House, this would have never happened. Imagine how much more can happen if we, simply, elected more Democrats in 2022. Because Republicans are making it abundantly clear they don’t think climate crisis exists and is worth tackling (even though many White farmers and rural voters, smart enough to set their racism aside, have something else to say about that).
We Have Other Concerns …
We currently have three big streams of federal dollars to keep track of that have already flowed into various states and localities or are on the way and will be or can be dedicated to climate crisis response and mitigation. We need to keep track of …
Remaining American Relief Plan dollars (those are the pandemic relief monies; some are still out there, unused)
The recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law dollars (remember: Biden engineered and Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure act this Spring, which is now law)
The just passed Inflation Reduction Act
The big question mark: How much of these dollars can the most climate and environmentally distressed Black, Brown and Indigenous populations take advantage of? It’s unclear: now that White populations and voters are realizing they can’t escape to other places away from climate crisis, they’re rearing and ready to soak up every last dollar dedicated to it - at the expense of populations who have been hit and will continue being hit the hardest by it and also long-term pollution impacts.
This is what people don't know, especially Black communities in climate crisis-impacted regions (where 40 percent of the U.S. Black population lives), and also Brown and Indigenous populations living in, for example, major drought stricken regions in the West and Southwest. Elected officials get evasive about exact amounts. We need to start asking. What's happening is that, however, developers and various organizations do know these dollars are here or are on the way and they are chomping at the bit to get them for their projects. Predominantly White Academic institutions are also ready to snatch these dollars - away from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other “minority serving” institutions. A lot of these projects are "greening" or "green economy projects:" from planting more trees to creating more environmentally friendly spaces to creating more "clean energy" projects like solar, wind, geothermal and hydro.
We can’t keep getting left out of that disbursement process. We need to know this information and start forcing our communities to come up with a plan to capture these dollars.