What? Good news in the fight to save the planet from rising temperatures?
Yes. It comes in the form of a bill that pleases both Senator Joe Manchin and the Natural Resources Defense Council. That gives the West Virginia senator political tokens — essentially, money for the people of West Virginia and a slightly looser leash on fossil fuels. However, the emissions reductions contemplated in the bill could be 10 times greater than the carbon released by helping said emitters, according to the NRDC, an environmental powerhouse.
Ultimately, by 2030, the United States could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions about 40% below 2005 levels.
Americans, don’t let the good news bore you. And ignore fringe environmental groups who criticize the bill for its trade-offs. I won’t even name them here. If the NRDC says this bill is a big deal to deal with climate change, it’s a big deal.
This summer has produced enough apocalyptic weather to focus the mind on the dire realities of a warming planet. The most recent was the catastrophic flooding in eastern Kentucky. The extraordinary nine inches of precipitation in 12 hours was “simply in its own universe,” tweeted Jeff Berardelli, a prominent Florida meteorologist. “With climate change, what was then nearly impossible is now not only possible, it’s likely.”
The Flood was a 1,000-year catastrophe, the kind of rare event that is only getting rarer. When it comes to weather, a millennium is not what it should be.
The dwindling water supply in the South West represents the flip side of climate change. Some places drown while others cook.
The British heatwave produced a record high of 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat fueled so many fires in London that the city’s fire brigade was its busiest since the Nazi blitzes in World War II.
Climatologists have concluded that such heat would have been “extremely unlikely” without global warming.
And so what’s in this bill could actually do something? For starters, it would spend hundreds of billions on wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles and other technologies that would reduce carbon emissions.
Manchin was enriched by coal and has long been a friend of fossil fuels. He’s running for re-election in a Trump-loving state that doesn’t always recognize how badly its coal industry has gone. And so the question must be asked: What’s in it for Manchin?
There is a scattering of goodies for fossil fuel producers. On the one hand, the federal government should open more public lands to drilling, even if the extractors would have to pay higher royalties. It would streamline energy infrastructure projects, a boon for clean energy and others.
It would provide tax credits for carbon capture and storage technologies. Some purists complain that this allows factories to continue to run on fossil fuels, as the technology would reduce their carbon emissions. On the other hand, reducing carbon emissions is a good thing. Extending the life of some facilities seems like a political price to pay for a much steeper drop in emissions elsewhere.
Who could argue with the bill’s incentives for building wind and solar farms in areas where coal mines or factories have closed? The United Mine Workers of America really like the idea – in addition to the part that preserves the federal trust fund for workers with black lung disease.
The measure still has a few legislative hurdles to clear before becoming a reality. But for the equally divided Democratic-controlled Senate, Manchin might have been the biggest hurdle.
For once, let’s put political considerations aside. Climate change is an existential threat. Without question, the abyss would engulf us all.
– Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be contacted at [email protected] To learn more about Froma Harrop and read articles from other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.