If you are confused about the two infrastructure bills currently pending in Congress, you are not alone. Together they handle everything from updating roads, bridges, railways and airports to cleaning up Superfund sites; expansion of preschool; lower the price of prescription drugs; tax cuts for the elderly; investing in small businesses and ensuring that the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. While these are all good things, which should be done, there is an existential aspect of the bills that, if unsuccessful, we will not predictably recover from climate change.
President Biden, at his Earth Day summit earlier this year, pledged to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 , a goal agreed upon but not yet implemented by the nations of the world. . All the measures to achieve its objective are in the two bills.
The âtraditionalâ bipartite of 1,000 billion dollars (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), adopted by the Senate (69-30, including 19 Republicans) and currently in the House, would provide for: updating the electricity network to ensure transmission of green energy; nationwide expansion of electric vehicle charging stations; converting bus fleets to electric and zero emission buses; and the expansion of public transport for buses and trains. These are necessary. They will not be enough to meet the President’s GHG reduction targets.
Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion infrastructure bill, Build Back Better, passed by the House but stalled in the Senate, has hit the mark. It includes incentives and payments for electricity providers to increase the amount of clean electricity they produce; more funding for low-income solar and wind technologies; tax incentives for clean energy; electrify the federal fleet; rehabilitate federal buildings with energy saving measures; invest in the supply of green materials; ensure research on climate change; and promoting healthy oceans to ensure they can continue to absorb carbon. If you put the two bills together, we could hit Biden’s 50% reduction by 2030.
The urgency to do so cannot be overstated. In an unprecedented warning on September 7, more than 200 medical journals warned that climate change is now the “greatest threat” to global public health. The joint publication urged world leaders to reduce heat-trapping emissions and warned that the world cannot wait until the COVID-19 pandemic is over before tackling climate change.
On August 10, UN scientists issued a ‘code red for humanity’ global warming warning: “It’s guaranteed to get worse, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.” The urgency against which these scientists warn us is there. The forest fires, hurricanes, floods and droughts we are experiencing today are the new normal. As long as we keep pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, they will only intensify, as scientists say.
From October 31 to November 12, world leaders will meet in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss commitments to cut fossil fuels, reduce air pollution and improve health around the world. This could be the last best chance in the world to avoid the coming tipping point (an additional 1.5 degrees Celsius, 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit of warming) and a global climate catastrophe, predictably starting in the 2030s without intervention. . If we reach the tipping point, nature’s natural ecosystems that provide our food, water and air will begin to disintegrate.
If the United States is to have any leadership credibility in Glasgow, we must pass the infrastructure bills; otherwise we are all words and no action. After four years in which the Trump administration has denied climate change, we must prove that we are serious and capable of playing a leadership role. We are the second largest emitter of GHGs. China is first, India third and Russia fourth. None of them will lead on this issue. The EU does not have the political authority to do this. If we do not accept the mantle of leadership, more global warming and deadly global climate disasters will occur.
Ironically, it is not the systematic obstruction that threatens this action but two Democratic senators: Joe Manchin (D-WVA) and to a lesser extent Krysten Sinema (D-AZ). Biden’s Build Back Better bill can pass through the budget reconciliation process by majority vote, avoiding the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican obstruction. Manchin and Sinema say the bill is too expensive. I think Sinema’s objection can be overcome. Manchin, because of his investment in coal businesses, is a very different matter.
Senator Manchin not only represents a coal-producing state, he has benefited for decades from the coal companies he founded in the 1980s (more than $ 4.5 million since joining the Senate). What shivers down your spine are his comments on the climate: “If you put your head in the sand and say that [fuel] has to be eliminated in Americaâ¦ and thinking that this will clean up the global climate, it won’tâ¦ If anything, it would be worse. The relationship between global warming and fossil fuels is far beyond this kind of 20th century denial. The relationship is absolute and must be stopped.
In a 50-50 Senate, Senator Manchin can prevent legislation from becoming law, thus destroying the credibility of the United States in Glasgow. We should, with a loud and clear voice, point out his self-interest and obstruction, and condemn him. You don’t have to be a voter to contact him. Call his office (202-224-3121), email him (www.senate.gov), or send him a letter (306 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510).