Climate Action: The Perfect Storm is Upon Us

In 2020, President Biden ran on a campaign to “build back better,” and through the combined effect of the infrastructure bill, CHIPS Act, and the newly-passed Inflation Reduction Act, he may be able to do just that.

 

These pieces of legislation are not only Biden’s attempt to follow through on his campaign promise and hard-won victories for democratic lawmakers, but also a grand slam for the climate, which is as we know in crisis.

 

Let’s talk unambiguously about what each of these acts do separately and together for sustainable development, and what this perfect storm of climate legislation means for Americans’ everyday lives.

Biden’s Infrastructure Bill

Congress passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on November 15, 2021, and President Biden signed it into law ten days later. This bill devotes $550 billion to road, rail and broadband funding in the U.S.

Sweeping Changes to U.S. Infrastructure

Energy and transportation:

This comprehensive law touches on a wide scope of American life. In terms of energy, the law promises reliable, high-speed internet for all Americans. It invests heavily in public transport (more than ever before) so Americans can travel in a more ecologically-sound manner, and work together to stop the transportation sector from being the largest source of greenhouse emissions in the U.S. 

 

The changes to infrastructure also include investing heavily in our rail system so Americans  ave better access to this energy-efficient and climate-friendly option. The law takes a swing at greenifying private, personal transportation in the U.S., too. Travel by electric vehicle across long distances will become more feasible with a new, nationwide nexus of EV chargers. The law also allows the U.S. to invest more than ever in a clean energy grid, and to fund the implementation of other various clean energy technologies across the country. Lastly, through the repair of outdated roads and bridges, existing transportation methods are revitalized and their safety improved.

 

For the climate, all of this means reduced emissions and the consequent improved air quality all across the nation. For American citizens, it means energy-efficient and affordable transportation, increased productivity, as well as the opportunity to engage in one of the many new “green jobs” necessitated by these new programs. This law isn’t called the Green New Deal, but certainly echoes FDR’s New Deal in its emphasis on putting Americans to work.   

Human health and environmental racism addressed:

While reduced emissions and a more efficient lifestyle in general clearly have a positive impact on human health, the infrastructure law seeks to also directly build human bodily health and resiliency, as well as to protect our society against the negative impacts of a changing climate. This overhaul of American industry comes with addressing the threat of decaying old industrial sites and outdateted lead pipe systems. Clean drinking water is promised to all, as well as a massive nationwide cleanup of dormant, toxic industrial sites, often positioned near historically “redlined” communities of color. This means a direct recognition and remediation of environmental racism.

American Economic Life and National Security:

The law also invests in hardy protections against natural disasters and increasingly severe weather due to climate change. Again, positioned on the front lines are often the aforementioned marginalized groups. National security and climate change are intrinsically linked.

Yet another component of this law includes protections for Americans and American companies against cyber attacks, which are increasingly likely as the climate destabilizes. This could be another layer of protection for national security.

Lastly, through a revamp of our ports both air and sea, goods can travel faster, and through this efficiency, cause less environmental damage to American communities: another boon for human health and the protection of wildlife and biodiversity. Additionally, an improved supply chain may assist the American economy in outrunning inflation, which brings us to the Inflation Reduction Act, passed by the Senate under the budget reconciliation process on August 7, 2022.

How will the Inflation Reduction Act help the climate?

According to the Washington Post, The Inflation Reduction Act “secures the largest-ever investment to tackle climate change, with roughly $370 billion dedicated to curbing harmful emissions and promoting green technology.”

 

Like the Infrastructure Bill, the IRA includes tax credits for investment in green energy solutions. Through the combined effect of these two legal directives, the U.S. could see a Star Wars-like technology renaissance. Think: direct air capture machines, carbon capture rail cars, super hot rock energy, carbon-free building blocks, green hydrogen, small nuclear reactors, and Fusion energy. Green technologists may have the green light from investors to enact their most ambitious experiments for clean energy solutions.

The Positive Effect of the IRA on Lay American Citizens:

In addition to improving human health through green tech, this act also seeks to affect the everyday lives of Americans in the immediate by focusing on reducing household power bills and on lowering prescription drug costs.

How Big Money Players and the Federal Deficit are Affected:

The IRA enacts taxes on some billion-dollar corporations. This means funding the clean energy provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Bill. Combined with a reduction of the federal deficit, these components of the IRA aim to make sound fiscal sense of the government’s large investment in clean energy future.

 

The IRA represents the last lagging piece to Biden’s economic agenda, and the CHIPS Act goes further to stabilize the economy among other objectives.

The CHIPS Act

The last element of this perfect storm of climate action is the CHIPS and Science Act, which Biden signed into law this week. The act will relocate the manufacturing of semiconductor chips found in a lot of our technology (like cell phones), from East Asia to the U.S.

What’s the deal with semiconductor chips?

This technology, currently primarily produced in Taiwan, powers Americans’ work and leisure by powering our electronic devices, from computers to cell phones to Playstations, and beyond.

American Self-Sufficiency, Climate Action & National Security through Chips:

Being self-sufficient as a country in manufacturing these chips is quite significant, as many of our livelihoods depend upon chip-powered technology, as does, conceivably, much of our green energy future. By making the chips on its soil, the U.S. may protect itself from the tenuous relationship between China and Taiwan, and may ensure its society will function no matter the political situation in Asia. In addition to the boon of national security, American tech manufacturing will experience a major windfall.

The Green Revolution in America Has the Green Light

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the biggest climate bill in United States history with the Inflation Reduction Act. With the IRA riding on the coattails of the recent Infrastructure Bill and CHIPS Act, the U.S. sits at attention, waiting to see how decades of environmental racism are addressed and remediated, how green and clean jobs are created, how the American economy is rejuvenated, how the U.S. is protected against the threat of other powerhouses like China, and how an energy-efficient nation will improve Americans’ physical and financial health.

 

Many environmentalists are hoping for a deluge of sustainable development on American soil, and that these legislations are just the first of many victories for the climate.

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