The historic climate bill that Congress approved on Friday signifies a “once in a generation” win for the septuagenarian politicians who created the bill, and for the 79-year-old president who is set to sign it into law. The bill was written by senators who are in their seventies.
Younger Democrats and environmental activists want for more, though. They see the law as a down payment, and they fear that an apathetic electorate will assume that Washington has finally addressed the problem of climate change, while in reality, experts warn that the government has merely taken the first required steps in the process.
The fact that the climate deal was crafted primarily by older men and included some concessions to the fossil fuel industry is not something that has escaped the notice of Christina Tzintzun Ramirez, who is 40 years old and is the president of NextGen America, an organisation whose mission is to increase the number of young people who vote.
On Friday, the Inflation Reduction Act was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 220 to 207, with Democrats successfully overcoming unified opposition from Republicans. It was a repeat performance from earlier in the week, when Democrats in the Senate approved the plan without receiving a single support from Republicans. The legislation allots a total of $370 billion over the course of ten years to be spent on investments in renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, clean hydrogen, energy storage, and other initiatives that aim to wean the American economy off of the reliance on fossil fuels that have served as its foundation for more than a century.
The new law, according to the estimates of industry analysts, will bring the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions to their lowest level since Lyndon Johnson was president. By the end of this decade, those emissions will be 20 percent lower than they were in 2005, which is in addition to the 20 percent reduction that will come about as a result of market forces that are already in place. Together, this would result in the elimination of an estimated one billion tonnes of pollutants per year by the end of the year 2030. This is nearly enough to fulfil Mr. Biden’s goal to decrease emissions by 50 percent by the year 2030.
However, experts believe that further action should be taken by the United States. The measure will not accomplish this goal, which requires an end to the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by the year 2050. According to scientific research, this is the goal that has to be achieved by all of the world’s main economies in order to keep the increase in average global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels. Beyond that point, there is a considerable rise in the chance of catastrophic droughts, floods, wildfires, and heat waves. The average temperature of the world has already increased by around 1.1 degrees Celsius.
According to the opinions of various industry experts, in order for Congress to accomplish the far more difficult task of virtually eradicating the country’s emissions of fossil fuels within the next two decades, it will need to pass legislation that is even more aspirational than the historic bill that was just approved by an extremely slim majority.
Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who is 56 years old and leads the House progressive caucus, stated that young and racially diverse climate advocates want new provisions that protect low-income neighbourhoods and communities of colour in addition to deeper cuts in emissions. This is because low-income neighbourhoods and communities of colour are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change.
After the measure is signed, Democrats and activists deserve “an end-zone dance,” according to Representative Sean Casten, a Democrat from Illinois who is also a scientist and formerly ran a firm that specialised in renewable energy. However, they must immediately go back to work.
However, Republicans surveyed between the ages of 18 and 29 were more likely than older adults to say that the federal government needs to take action on climate change. Furthermore, 64 percent of Republican respondents wanted the government to require power companies to use more energy derived from renewable sources. A poll conducted by Pew in 2021 found that younger members of both major American political parties — those born after 1981 — are more likely to be politically involved on the issue of climate change than older generations.
Ms. Gunn-Wright said that she is aware that environmentalists who have been fighting for decades in order to see a president sign big climate legislation will be exhausted. She did, however, provide a word of caution, stating that “in the United States, we have a history of taking a lot of initial steps, but then not taking the second, third, or fourth step.”