An new energy-filled video — part celebration, part education, part political action — is being released this week to highlight climate provisions within the newly passed US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The idea behind “Bold Action” is to reinforce to the public how the IRA contains historic funding to cut carbon emissions and transition to clean energy — and that US citizens have ample opportunities to join in.
It’s hard to believe, but all-too-many people in the US aren’t even aware of the IRA legislation.
Anthony Leiserowitz, founder and director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, says, “There certainly is a need to let a lot of the public know these new opportunities exist.”
The video is fast and dramatic.
Lightning. A cyclone. Wind peels back roofs. A helicopter drops retardant over a wildfire. A firefighter stares into a wall of flames. A truck plods through flooded streets. A bulldozer clears debris from a wide swatch of destroyed buildings. Highway traffic jams. Youth protests. Piles of plastics. Then clips of US President Joe Biden and his aides, soothing citizens whose lives have been upended by devastating storms, superimposed with the banner, “Democrats pass landmark climate and health bill.” Words punctuate images: Most. Powerful. Climate. Law. In US History. Then a tone shift occurs. Clips of someone plugging in an EV. Semiconductor chips. Satellites. The Aurora Borealis. New words appear over images: More. Wind. More. Solar. The video ends with a call-to-action. “Thank President Biden for Bold Climate Action. Tell him to keep fighting. (202)456-1111. Learn more: InflationReductionAct.info.”
The $370 billion climate, tax, and health care package that US President Biden signed into law last week will catalyze progress in green technology. The IRA gives the US the credibility it needs to lead a global effort to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With sweeping potential for good job creation, renewable energy fixes, and tools to mitigate climate change, Democrats have delivered on their climate promises with the IRA. People in the US can take advantage of tax credits to install heat pumps or buy an electric car.
If citizens aren’t aware of these renewable energy opportunities, however, then citizen climate action could be weaker than expected — and also fail to be a deciding issue in the November midterm elections. The thinking behind the 30-second “Bold Action” video is that the message could awaken people to ways that the IRA could benefit them.
Max Boykoff, a communications professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told Bloomberg Green that there is potential to spark more conversations about the climate crisis and the importance of this specific bill to voters. “In the US, only 35% of adults occasionally talk about climate change with friends and family,” he said, “so we know more stimuli in the public world can stimulate those conversations and open up possibilities for greater engagement.”
Two 30-second spots are running on cable channels and streaming platforms, with youth target audiences expected to react positively when they see “Bold Action” on channels like MTV and Comedy Central. Youth around the US and the globe have become vocal climate activists, led by Greta Thunberg, who have been called “the greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry.
“We are planning for how Biden can use the rest of his two and a half years in office potentially even more to use the full extent of his executive authority,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate activist group.
Where Bold Action Comes Next: Executive Actions to Continue Addressing the Climate Crisis
Gina McCarthy, the White House climate adviser, says the IRA is just “a starting point.”
Even though the IRA will achieve many of the goals to bring the US closer to cutting emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, it’s not projected to complete the task. With centuries of fossil fuel pollution behind us, further reductions of GHG emissions are needed to keep the planet from warming to even higher, more dangerous temperatures.
According to a REPEAT analysis, the Act “closes about two-thirds of the remaining emissions gap between current policy and the nation’s 2030 climate target.” Electricity generation and transportation, which are currently the two largest sources of carbon pollution in the US, will derive the greatest impacts.
Compromises, including by agreeing to fossil fuel and drilling provisions, were necessary in order to pass the IRA, which includes the largest single US investment to slow global warming. Several methods to cut emissions had to be removed in order for Senator Joe Manchin (D-Coal) to sign onto the legislation. Manchin’s home state of West Virginia is heavily dependent on coal and gas, and Manchin has made a personal fortune from the coal industry.
Biden has made a central pledge of his administration to reduce GHG emissions by 50% compared to 2005 levels by 2020.
Economic benefits within the IRA will make passing additional legislation easier, but Biden’s aides say he is not willing to wait for Congress to cut emissions in future sessions. Instead, it seems likely that the President will deploy a series of measures, including new EPA regulations on emissions from a variety of industries, to continue the work that the IRA started. Biden’s possible executive actions range from new regulations on emissions from vehicle tailpipes to power plants and oil and gas wells.
Of course, the US Supreme Court in July limited the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. As a result, the EPA cannot, for example, as outlined in a recent New York Times article, require utilities to switch from coal to wind or solar power.
McCarthy revealed that Biden has “chosen to recognize that he has presidential authorities and responsibilities under the law to keep moving this forward,” she said. “And he’s going to continue to use those.” She noted that the EPA still has “broad authority” to regulate emissions from electricity generation. She also said the government is forging ahead with new regulations on soot and other traditional air pollutants, which will have the side benefit of cutting carbon emissions.
The EPA is drafting regulations to reign in methane, which oil producers consider a nuisance and make no effort to trap it — they just let it float into the atmosphere instead. Methane can warm the atmosphere 80 times as fast as carbon dioxide in the short term. That rule is expected to be finalized later this year. A separate regulation to curb vehicle tailpipe emissions is expected in 2023.
Republicans and fossil fuel industry advocates argue that new regulations will further strangle investments for coal, gas, and oil. “That’s the goal of the progressive movement and, so, it’s no surprise that the White House is giving them what they want,” said Thomas Pyle, the president of the Institute for Energy Research, an organization that supports the use of fossil fuels. US families, he forecast, will pay the price in the form of higher energy bills.
It’s important to remember that former President Donald Trump rolled back more than 100 of President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations, emphasizing fossil fuel industry lobbying over scientific climate evidence.
McCarthy, however, believes the private sector will steer the bulk of emissions cuts. “I have no question that they’ll go further and farther, because they will make money on this,” she said of the private sector.
Biden administration officials have been mum in discussing if the Biden administration will declare a climate emergency.
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