America’s Last Chance To Avert Climate Disaster

by Brian Schrader

Real progress on combatting climate change is possible, but only if we act now.

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Passing laws in the U.S. is hard. Consequently, sweeping legislative change is rare, but for the first time in a decade real progress on addressing Climate Change is possible. While the Senate’s recently passed bipartisan infrastructure package does contain a few tidbits of Climate Change mitigation—money for electric vehicle chargers and transmission, and a pittance for electrifying busses—the real possibility for game-changing legislation rests with the upcoming reconciliation bill that’s being negotiated in Congress right now.

Because of the complexities of American governance and strong partisan polarization on the issue of Climate Change, real progress on mitigation and adaptation is only possible under unified Democratic control of Congress and the Presidency; something both rare and incredibly fragile. Unified government, for either party, is incredibly uncommon, and with bipartisanship at its lowest point in decades, the simple fact is there may not be another chance at passing meaningful Climate Change mitigation legislation for a decade, after which things will have gotten significantly worse and even more difficult to fix.

David Roberts is a Climate Change writer and author of Volts.wtf. He has been covering the worsening effects of Climate Change and the various strategies available to mitigate its damages and adapt to its effects. In a recent article, Roberts spells out the reality of what the upcoming reconciliation bill could mean for the U.S. response to Climate Change. "This is the key thing to understand, so I’m going to repeat it: What Democrats are able to get through in the reconciliation bill is likely to be the last big federal climate legislation for a decade at least."

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Roberts also explains the two key clean-energy policies currently in discussion on Capitol Hill and even details why these two: a Clean Energy Payment Program and Clean Energy Tax Credits are the only options currently being discussed. There’s a lot of nuance to his reasoning, but it boils down to what can pass through the Senate and its peculiar rules—which Democrats are unwilling to change despite being able to.

The first is a Clean Energy Standard that would reduce electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2030...

The second is boosted and expanded clean energy tax credits. The investment tax credit (ITC) and production tax credit (PTC), for wind and solar respectively, would be renewed, but various forms of tax credits would also be extended to energy storage, hydrogen, carbon capture, and other key clean energy technologies.

Roberts explains that while these two ideas are not necessarily the most appealing to activists or the most explainable to voters, they would be incredibly effective at pushing U.S. emissions towards net-zero in the coming decade, a critical goal according to climate scientists. That said, these policies are far from guaranteed to making it into the reconciliation bill and the Democrats' last major legislative endeavor before the 2022 midterms. At this point, public pressure is needed to get congressional Democrats on board.

It’s going to be the CEPP and tax credits or nothing big for climate. If both those policies are put in place, it could set the US power system on a new course and strengthen American credibility… If they slip through the cracks, climate will have to settle for scraps...

If you care about Climate Change, now is the time to act. Call your representatives and let them know you support the CEPP and Clean Energy Tax Credits, and mobilize others to do the same. There’s no time to lose. If we fail to act now, it could be over a decade before we get another shot.

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