Posted on Saturday, November 20, 2021 | 7:48
Updated 2 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AP) – After talking about the climate rhetoric at UN negotiations in Scotland, the Biden administration is now testing whether a divided United States can walk on the climate: pushing massive investment for a new era of clean energy across the Senate’s narrowest margins.
The House passed a roughly $ 2 trillion climate and social policy bill on Friday, including $ 555 billion for cleaner energy, though the legislation is almost certainly changed by the Senate. What ultimately emerges in the climate portion of the bill will have a lasting impact on America and all of its neighbors on Earth, and will help determine whether the United States is doing its promised part to keep climate damage at a level that no is not catastrophically worse than today.
“The problem is when you have these storms coming in with such frequency, as soon as you deal with one, you deal with the next,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who has battled five government-declared disasters. federal. during his six years as the head of the world oil hub on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Turner spoke on the sidelines of the United Nations conference in Glasgow, where he was among dozens of mayors pushing for climate investments. After years of deadly storms in intensifying deluges and hurricanes from the tropics, Houstonians have frozen to death in record numbers in a teetering polar vortex this year.
“And so for our vulnerable communities… where people are already on the margins, it just keeps going a little lower,” Turner said.
In the Senate, the cost-cutting demands of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of the West Virginia Coal State and the strict rules of that chamber certainly appear to be forcing significant changes to the bill. This would cause new disputes between the party’s centrists and the moderates which will likely take weeks to resolve.
If Biden’s package passes, its impact on clean energy sources and technology will mean the United States will likely miss Biden’s target of halving fossil fuel emissions by 5% by the end of this decade – more specifically and clumsily, to halve the amount of carbon dioxide the United States pumps out by 2030 from 2005 levels.
That’s according to modeling done by researchers at Princeton University and elsewhere, explained climate scientist and energy analyst Zeke Hausfeather.
But if Biden’s bill fails in Congress, the United States will likely be much further away from its 20% emission reduction promise, according to academic modeling.
Market forces making renewables ever cheaper would help the United States come a long way regardless, Hausfeather said.
But with this broken promise, it would be more difficult for the United States “to convince countries like China and India to meet their climate commitments … if we are not able to keep our own promises,” noted Hausfeather, a director of the Breakthrough Institute research center.
Over time, the United States has been the world’s largest emitter of coal, natural gas, and petroleum fumes that alter the atmosphere and heat the Earth. China, with its dependence on coal-fired power plants, is currently the largest emitter, and the United States is the No. 2. India, with its burgeoning population and reliance on coal, is poised to overtake both in the coming decades.
In Glasgow, Bangladesh’s climate negotiator Quamrul Chowdhury fought, as he has for years, to get the US and other big polluters to make the quick and big cuts needed to keep his country going. and other low-lying countries out of the water.
After decades of reversed US climate policies with political parties in incoming administrations, Chowdhury was eager for Congress to make the deal.
“In your national law, if it’s listed, it will help,” Chowdhury said. At climate conferences, leaders “make promises, make commitments, but they are not kept. Promises are made, to be broken. “
The most dramatic American climate change has been that of the Trump administration. He pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, slowed down offshore wind projects, encouraged oil and gas exploration and drilling. He canceled the Obama administration’s plans to promote clean energy and discourage coal.
Dozens of Republican lawmakers in Congress are now stepping forward to claim middle ground on the climate, between Trump and Biden, whose declining popularity raises doubts about Democratic retention in Washington.
In a conservative caucus founded by Republican Representative John Curtis of Utah, Republicans say they know how to steer voters away from fossil fuels and are advocating for climate policy that continues to use natural gas in particular.
They focus on trees, as well as carbon capture technology that has not yet been developed on a large scale, to capture climate-damaging emissions.
“We know we need to reduce emissions. Now let’s have a thoughtful conversation about how we do it, ”Curtis said during a panel with other US lawmakers in Glasgow. “And it’s, it’s a new place, I think, for us.”
According to Featherhaus, depending on whether an upcoming Republican administration like Trump’s will actively oppose efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption, another US pullback on climate efforts could set the country back a few points percentage points to meet Biden’s emissions reduction target, Featherhaus said.
But “I think the most important effect (…) would be due to the lack of global leadership on the issue and to the (fairly justified) creation of the impression that the American promises are not trustworthy”, he said in an email.