In the United States, it's been a summer of cascading disasters: downpours have turned major metropoles' transit lines into rivers, a coastal condo collapsed, flames have engulfed vast swaths of land, and triple-digit heat
has roasted typically temperate regions, resulting in an increasing death toll
and incalculable trauma.
However, for the first time
in more than a decade, the United States government
may take action to address the emissions
that are causing climate
This week, the Biden administration
and its congressional allies announced plans to pack the federal budget
with resources and rules that could shock a country that has long been paralyzed by corporate obstruction and science
denial into finally confronting an unprecedented crisis.
intend to use their slim congressional majorities to pass a $3.5 trillion spending package that includes mandates to cut 80% of global warming
pollution from the electricity sector by 2030, fund a new green jobs
corps, and make it easier for drivers to switch from gas
guzzlers to electric vehicles.
It is unclear whether enough funding will be included in the final budget to make the programs meaningful; however, by tying the proposals to the budget process, which requires only 51 votes
to become law
, Democrats can avoid the 60-vote threshold for passing traditional legislation, which grants Republicans filibuster
However, doing so grants Sen. Joe Manchin
(D-W.Va.), widely regarded as the most conservative Democrat in the caucus, kingmaker status, and he has already indicated his opposition to anything that disadvantages fossil fuels
There is also a pull from the other end of the Democratic
ideological spectrum, as 16 senators, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
(D-NY), have vowed to vote against any budget that does not include climate provisions. However, as Mother Jones reported, those in the “No Climate, No Deal” contingent have yet to settle on any uniform demands about what kinds of policy they want to see in the budget.
“We cannot address a small sliver of our carbon pollution and claim victory; we must address this problem at scale,” Leah Stokes, associate professor of political science at the University
, Santa Barbara, and author of “Short Circuiting Policy,” wrote in The Atlantic
While budget negotiators work
out the details, other lawmakers are introducing stand-alone bills that could end up in the final funding bill.
On Wednesday, the Senate Energy
Committee approved Manchin's bill, which would direct $95 billion to carbon capture and storage technology in fossil fuel plants
Sen. Martin Heinrich
(D-NH) introduced legislation on Thursday that would provide Americans with rebates for purchasing energy-efficient new appliances, with the goal of reducing the 37% of U.S. emissions caused by household energy use.
And, on Friday, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sheldon Whitehouse
(D-RI) joined two Republicanas in introducing legislation to provide grants to financially troubled nuclear power plants in the hopes of preserving the country's largest source of carbon-free electricity.
in the House of Representatives
are laying out their own vision for climate legislation.
The THRIVE Act, a $10 trillion spending plan, was announced by lawmakers in March as their signature policy.
Rep. Cori Bush
(D-Mo.) proposed a $1 trillion federal aid package in April
to cities, towns, and tribes seeking to reduce emissions in order to avoid state-level climate mandates.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) proposed the “Green New Deal
for Public Schools
” on Thursday, a $1.4 trillion package to fund major school renovations, hire more teachers
, and assist low-income children
The steeper price tags sought by the left-wing candidates may appear large, but they are more in line with what economists on both sides of the political aisle, from the progressive Roosevelt Institute to George W. Bush-era Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, say is required to rapidly reduce the United States' output of planet-warming gases.
Despite warnings from economists and forecasters that failing to invest enough now in decarbonization carries even bigger risks as warming worsens, President Joe Biden
and his treasury chief, Janet Yellen
, are concerned that borrowing more money
to justify climate spending poses financial risks for the country.
Faced with fierce opposition from industries and their congressional allies, federal policymakers were only able to come up with $2.4 trillion in direct revenue to offset the program, and another $1.1 trillion through budgetary accounting techniques.
And, while the Biden administration has faced mounting protests
from climate activists demanding more action to reduce emissions, requests for something as bizarre as “more deficit spending” have yet to materialize or gain traction.
Despite far stricter budget constraints as a result of its multinational euro currency, the European Union
took even more aggressive climate action this week, proposing a dozen bills that would, among other things, ban diesel and gas-powered cars by 2035 and levy new taxes
on heating gas.
Extending those efforts could be critical ahead of the United Nations
climate conference in Scotland
in November. The world is already 1.1 degrees Celsius hotter than in pre-industrial times, and even if every country adheres to its pledged emissions cuts, the planet will still warm by at least 2 degrees this century.
If the United States and the European Union, which contain the people
most responsible for the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere today
, are unable to reduce emissions quickly, convincing the majority of humanity in Africa
, Asia, and Latin America to do the same will be difficult.