Passage of the IRA Prompts Celebration Time (for Some)
Not everyone is pleased about last week’s passage of The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in both houses of Congress. Most of my readers will rightly assume that I’m thrilled because when enacted into law it will constitute the first real step ever taken by Congress to address the climate emergency. My young grandchildren and the coming generations may now have a chance for a livable planet.
The experts assert the IRA will reduce carbon emissions 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. That’s good but not good enough. Still, it’s movement in the right direction. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, composed of the world’s leading atmospheric scientists, declares that to avoid tipping points leading to environmental collapse global warming must not exceed 1.5 degrees C. above pre-industrial levels. More needs to be done and soon.
That said, opponents decry the measure because it was not bipartisan. I get that. Because of the Senate’s arcane rules the measure passed by the “reconciliation” process, requiring only a simple majority of 51 votes as opposed to the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Supporters preferred a bipartisan approach and tried mightily to achieve it but got nowhere. Meanwhile, record temperatures have been baking America this summer causing heat deaths. Mega wildfires have been incinerating many of the forests in the Western states. Coastlines have been eroding from rising, tempestuous seas. Epic floods in Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, and even Las Vegas have reminded us a climate emergency is here and now. Human lives and property have been facing ever greater risks while a hyper-politicized, deadlocked Congress refused to act. Under such conditions, to not have passed The Inflation Reduction Act would clearly have been unconscionable.
One might reasonably ask, ‘is there a Laguna Beach connection to all of this?” Most definitely there is. Recall the recent Coastal Fire. The Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby participated in a nationwide CCL effort that generated 50,000 phone calls and emails to Congress, urging passage of the IRA. Some 7,000 of these communications occurred in the last week before passage in the House. In addition, Laguna CCLers wrote letters to the editors of newspapers throughout the country advocating for a strong climate component in the reconciliation package.
So, when the New York Times recently announced that the measure finally passed Congress and will next go to President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature, our Laguna chapter erupted in glee—a feeling we’ve not had since our inception in 2019. To celebrate, about 15 of us held a picnic at a park in Laguna Beach. A lot of refreshing homemade salads were served along with slices of homemade lemon meringue pie. For the moment, we were feasting and savoring the historic legislative achievement, and enjoying the natural beauty of this special place, and each other’s great company.
Yet, we know that the IRA is no panacea and much more needs to be done to reach the 50% reduction of carbon emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 to avoid the worst consequences of global warming. This is according to the IPCC scientists.
Going forward, I’ll try to learn more about what is in the IRA for cities. Meanwhile, I urge all of us to track City Hall’s progress in updating Laguna’s Climate Protection Action Plan. Specifically, has lagunabeachcity.net been upgraded to make climate progress information easily accessible? The public needs to know what is happening with Community Choice Energy. Is City Hall vetting possible joint power authority options? What’s the City’s goal regarding the purchase of electric fleet vehicles? The momentum is finally with us; still, little will happen without a clear, persistently asserted public will. Knowing the stakes, let’s work for more steps forward, more celebrations.
Tom is an environmental historian and journalist. Also, he is co-leader with his wife, Ginger, of the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.