“How bad is the climate stalemate? In the United States, we have gotten used to legislative inaction, on climate as with much else. But even by those debased standards a failure to pass a major emissions-cutting bill this Congress would be, potentially, a generational setback — pushing hopes for paradigm-shifting legislation so far over the time horizon they effectively disappear. To listen to many on the environmental left, it could prove to be a defeat worse than the election of Donald Trump — potentially more damaging both because it comes at a more perilous and urgent time and because it’s not at all clear when the next opportunity would materialize.
At the moment, prospects for such a bill seem grim. The key vote, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has rejected version after version of Build Back Better and has recently begun huddling with Republicans to talk about a bipartisan energy bill — which may or may not be political theater, and surely signals at least frustration with, and possibly disinterest in, negotiating further with other Democrats and the White House.
But since Memorial Day is one conventional-wisdom deadline for introducing new legislation, since no major replacement has publicly emerged, and since the political prospects for passing anything headlined by climate action on a bipartisan basis seem intuitively thin, the most recent iteration of Build Back Better still hangs in the air as a sort of natural comparison point and conceptual model — what we talk about when we talk about Democrats passing climate legislation. And when we talk about it in those terms, the cost of inaction looks really, really large.
Here are seven ways of tabulating it.
We would add about five billion tons of additional carbon to the atmosphere.
It can be hard to calculate the precise effect of legislation before it is passed and goes into effect (as some of the underwhelming impacts of Obamacare have demonstrated). But a team of Princeton researchers led by Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor of energy systems engineering and policy, has been running real-time projections of the impact of Build Back Better as it evolved (including finding that when the bill was revised to offer much more carrot and much less stick, there was a negligible effect on its estimated impact).
With no bill at all, by 2030, Jenkins and his REPEAT (Rapid Energy Policy Evaluation and Analysis Toolkit) team calculate, the country would be 5.5 billion tons short of a net-zero pathway by 2030. Five billion of those tons would be the result of this legislative failure, and the gap would be growing by the year; in 2030, they calculate an annual shortfall of 1.3 billion.
Ninety-one percent of Biden’s decarbonization pledge would go unfulfilled.
President Biden has repeatedly pledged to make America carbon-neutral by 2050, and to meet the necessary interim target of cutting the country’s emissions in half by 2030. Overall, Jenkins and his team calculate, legislative failure would leave 91 percent of the job unfulfilled.
Jenkins also estimates that failure to pass the bill will cost two million American jobs, compared to a future in which it had become law; will withdraw $1.5 trillion of necessary investment from new energy supplies and sectors, potentially killing the future of not just much-debated carbon-capture projects but also nuclear and hydrogen power; and will raise overall energy expenditure by 7 percent nationwide, despite what critics often say about the “costs” of clean energy.”
David Lindsay: Excellent piece. I hope you could access all of it. Above is just 1/3.
Here is one of many good comments: Click on the link.
In the 31 years since the first report by the IPCC emissions of CO2 have gone up by 60 percent. During a time when we could not plead ignorance we made more change to the climate than during the entire prior history of humanity. The carbon cycle for the last 2 million years was doing 180-280ppm atmospheric CO2 over 10,000 years and we’ve done more change than that in 100 years. The last time CO2 went from 180-280ppm global temperature increased by around 4 degrees C and sea level rose 130 meters. That’s over 30 meters per degree rise in temperature and we’re at about 1.2 degrees now. Here’s a graph of the last 400,000 years of global temperature, CO2 and sea level http://www.ces.fau.edu/nasa/images/impacts/slr-co2-temp-400000yrs.jpg Within a decade or two droughts worse than the Dust Bowl are likely to severely impact the breadbaskets of the world causing massive famines and economic decline. Shortly thereafter we’d be faced with retreat from the coastal areas where most of our large cities are located as the West Antarctic ice sheet breaks and the rate of sea level rise increases dramatically along with maximum storm strength. It is difficult to imagine us walking into this with our eyes open, but here we go.
For those questioning the clear climate science in these comments: 1824 Fourier says the surface of the Earth is warmer than it should be, it must be doing something like a greenhouse. 1856 Foote says, hmmm, CO2 is doing it. 1896 Arrhenius says hey if we burn fossil fuels we’re raising CO2, we’re going to warm the Earth and this is how much and he was pretty close. 1940s the modern quantum version with the US Air Force right after WWII. They weren’t doing global warming, they wanted sensors on heat-seeking missiles to shoot down Soviet bombers before they incinerated their cities. The CO2 absorbs infrared whether its coming from the engine of an enemy bomber or the Sun warmed Earth. The idea scientists don’t know what they are talking about is completely absurd.