But you would never know from watching C-SPAN. The bipartisan infrastructure bill removes most of the climate investments from President Biden’s U.S. employment plan, leaving them for a future reconciliation package that may or may not pass. There has been a lot of debate on the left over whether the bipartisan bill should be killed, or at least blocked until its successor is closer to passage. But the bipartisan bill includes some climate priorities – $ 47.2 billion for climate resilience projects, $ 73 billion for power grid upgrades – and there is little reason to believe its destruction will make the Senator Joe Manchin more likely to support a broad partisan effort.
It’s better than nothing; it’s not enough. The same is true, to be fair, even for the larger investments that Biden envisioned. This is the state of climate policy in 2021, and I don’t think it will be much different in 2022 or 2025.
“Climate alarmism is useless” tweeted Juan Moreno-Cruz, the Canada Research Chair in Energy Transitions at the University of Waterloo. “The impacts of climate change are there. Let’s talk about climate realism. The problem, he continued, is that “talking about climate solutions has left us unprepared for real climate change. We continue to use models and fight over which “solution” is best, but we have done nothing to combat the impacts of climate change. Adaptation research and implementation are severely underfunded.
But when I spoke to him, Moreno-Cruz’s realism didn’t sound much more realistic, and he knew it. “We have to provide adaptation measures and investments to the majority of the people of the planet,” he told me. Adaptation is a monstrous challenge, arguably more difficult and costly than simply reducing emissions. It requires infrastructure, support for migration, income and food security and more, and funding must flow from rich countries to poor countries. “At this point, it becomes very similar to mitigation in the sense that our incentives in rich countries to protect poor countries are not aligned,” Moreno-Cruz said.
We underestimate the horrors humans will adapt to. There is no expanse of suffering that guarantees a compassionate response. The wreckage of the coronavirus is a reminder that even the deaths of family members, friends and neighbors will not inevitably transform our politics. More than 600,000 American lives have been lost, and yet the 2020 election looked a lot like the 2016 election, and the fights for even a modest adaptation as masks rocked the nation. Worse, American policy evolved as soon as the epicenters of the crisis moved beyond our borders. There is nothing in the past year that should make us believe that the ruinous suffering in India will focus the minds in America.
I don’t want this to be a column that pleads for despair. No emotion is more useless, and it is bad in any case. If we fail to keep warming below the long-standing global target of 2 degrees Celsius, well, 2 degrees is still better than 2.5. And 2.5 is far better than 3. And mankind would far prefer 3 to 3.5. And so on. There is no time when giving up makes more sense than fighting.
But to the immediate question – how to force the political system to do enough, fast enough, to avoid mass suffering – I don’t know the answer, or even if there is an answer. Legislative policy is unlikely to suffice in a short-term power alignment that I can foresee – although I sincerely hope Congress will, at least, pass the clean energy investments and standards proposed in the U.S. plan. for the job. I doubt that a wave of bombings will accelerate change, and even if I believed otherwise, who am I to tell others to risk these consequences? The pace of renewable technologies has been a welcome surprise, and I would like us to spend endless billions on lunar technology projects, including nuclear research, direct air capture, and even geoengineering research. There is nothing that we should not be prepared to try, but even as we invent the fuels of the future, we will need the policymakers to deploy them on the cries of industries that want to take advantage of machines and oil wells. the past.