Passage of major climate legislation is victory for future generations

Madeleine Para and Jon Clark
Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Those hoping to preserve a livable world for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren can find much to celebrate in the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act recently passed in the U.S. Senate. The bill, now awaiting passage in the House, contains a huge investment — $369 billion — in low-carbon technologies and is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The significance of this legislative victory cannot be overstated. For decades, scientists warned of the dire consequences we face for failing to bring down the heat-trapping emissions that are warming our world. For far too long those warnings were ignored, and hopes that our nation would take action were raised again and again only to be dashed for lack of political will.

Now, at last, the political will is there. Our lawmakers have finally listened and delivered. With these policies in place, the United States will embark on a transformational journey to wean ourselves off the fossil fuels driving climate change, and in the process remove air pollution that sickens millions of Americans and inflicts billions of dollars in damage to our economy.

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The Inflation Reduction Act will speed this transition by providing tax credits over the next 10 years to develop and deploy clean energy like wind and solar. Money will also be used to help households become more energy efficient and to replace gas appliances with ones powered by electricity, like heat pumps and induction stoves. Middle- and low-income Americans will also be eligible for tax credits to help them buy electric vehicles, thereby reducing the carbon emissions and unhealthy air pollution from gasoline-powered cars and trucks.

The incentives in this legislation will provide economic opportunity here in Pennsylvania by increasing the demand for products and services like solar installations. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Pennsylvania has installed 935 megawatts of total solar, enough to power 112,816 homes. The recently approved Dover Solar Project will add another 75 megawatts of capacity, enough to power an additional 12,000 households with clean energy.  The Inflation Reduction Act will grow our clean energy manufacturing in the state even more.

Climate activists protest at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in May. Top climate scientists say the world needs to think about worst case climate scenarios.

Another important provision in the Inflation Reduction Act addresses the leakage of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. It’s a big contributor to global warming, and to reduce those emissions, this legislation imposes a fee that rises over time. The principle is simple: Discourage bad behavior by making it more expensive. It worked really well to reduce the number of people who smoke cigarettes.

Disadvantaged communities that typically bear the greatest burden from climate change and pollution will also get help. Some $60 billion will be used on environmental justice programs in those communities.

This long-sought breakthrough on climate legislation was made possible by grassroots support that was lacking in previous “inside the Beltway” efforts. Over the past year, for example, Citizens’ Climate Lobby generated more than 200,000 letters and phone calls to members of Congress urging passage of a reconciliation bill that contains strong climate provisions. Members of other advocacy groups urged Congress to tackle climate as well. This victory was won by concerned citizens who made their voices heard by decision-makers in Washington.

Meaningful steps to fight climate change come not a moment too soon. Extreme weather-related disasters made worse by rising temperatures, like flooding this summer that killed dozens in Missouri and Kentucky, are becoming more frequent and could soon outpace our ability to adapt and recover.

In Pennsylvania, we’re feeling the heat of an altered climate, literally. Temperatures in Pennsylvania increased 1.8F in the last century, and Pennsylvania is expected to warm another 5.9F by 2050. Pennsylvania will see many more days above 90F by mid-century compared to 2000. According to the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s 2021 Climate Change Impact Assessment: “While rare historically (less than once per year, on average), days above 95°F are projected to occur about 12 times per year by mid-century and 31 times per year by end-of-century. The warmest parts of the state could experience up to 37 days above 95°F by 2050."

Throughout the global community, the U.S. has been viewed as a laggard on climate change. This legislation will help restore U.S. climate leadership. Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced in every country around the world, and our example will inspire and motivate other nations to increase their climate ambition.

We’re grateful that Sen. Bob Casey responded to the call for climate action by voting in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act.

More will be needed to meet the U.S. pledge to cut emissions in half by 2030, but for now let’s celebrate the passage of this historic legislation, which brings hope that we and future generations can live in a hospitable climate. The best time to do something about climate change was 20 years ago. The next best time is now, and that’s finally happening.

— Madeleine Para is executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Jon Clark is Appalachia regional coordinator for CCL.