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View from Away: Climate Change is ravaging the Earth. We must act.
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View from Away: Climate Change is ravaging the Earth. We must act.

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This is not a good time to fight climate change.

It seemed that there might be a political will in the United States to get economies and communities off fossil fuels.

President Biden made climate change a centerpiece of his agenda, and the latest version of his “Build Back Better” bill includes $555 billion to help cut greenhouse gas emissions and speed up the transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy. If approved by Congress, it would be the biggest investment in climate spending in U.S. history and a major commitment from the world’s largest economy.

Sen. Joe Manchin III shattered that hope last weekend.

The West Virginia Democrat, whose vote is essential in the evenly divided Senate, announced on “Fox News Sunday” that he would not vote for the Build Back Better bill as currently drafted. As a result of Manchin’s opposition, the bill could be shrunk even more to appease him (it started out at $3.5 trillion) or scrapped altogether, in which case Congress will have failed, again, to take action to slow the existential threat of climate change.

Build Back Better is more that a climate bill. The $1.75 trillion plan includes money for universal pre-school, an extended child credit, affordable housing, and subsidies to families to help them pay for child care, elder care, and healthcare. These investments are vital to close the prosperity gap and adapt federal government to meet the 21st century’s needs.

But the potential demise of Biden’s clean energy and technology spending plan is particularly galling. Climate change is a time bomb. The United Nations reported that the world has moved too slowly to stop global climate change and the resulting increase of extreme and deadly weather conditions. We can still prevent the worst destruction by taking radical action to reduce carbon emissions over the next ten years.

The United States, as the nation with the highest levels of carbon emissions, has a special responsibility to reduce it. Biden’s plan is an attempt to do that by offering tax credits and incentives to encourage companies and consumers to invest in clean energy and vehicles. It’s worth noting that an important piece of the president’s climate agenda — a plan to reward companies that use clean energy sources and penalize those that don’t — was yanked from the bill in the fall to keep Manchin on board. That’s a lot.

Now, Manchin isn’t solely responsible for Congress’ failure to act. There are 50 Republican senators who have refused to support Biden’s bill, or offer any realistic alternative plan to fight climate change.

Manchin and GOP lawmakers repeat fossil-fuel industry talking points. They claim that the energy sector is already shifting to renewable power, and that accelerating this transition would compromise the reliability of the electric network. But the U.S., along with other major world polluters, aren’t moving fast enough to phase out fossil fuels and cut carbon to limit global temperature rise. The electric grid is also under threat from extreme weather patterns that are fueled by climate changes, including severe heat waves and icestorms.

This is not the end of the U.S. commitment to combating climate change. The Democrats must push for the Build back Better bill. There’s too much at stake.

– Editorial by the Los Angeles Times

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