We Can Thank Green New Dealers for the Inflation Reduction Act

The era of big government is back. At least, it’s making a comeback—thanks to the momentum generated by the movement ecosystem of Green New Deal advocates, organizers, and policy wonks.

Forty-five years after Exxon’s scientists sounded the alarm about climate change to the company’s leaders, 34 after NASA scientist James Hansen testified before Congress about the greenhouse effect, 14 after then–Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama declared that the ocean’s rise would begin to slow, seven after the adoption of the Paris climate accords, and nearly four after freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined young people sitting in at Nancy Pelosi’s office calling for Congress to act, the Democratic majority in Congress finally passed federal climate legislation.

On its face, the Inflation Reduction Act should be cause for jubilation. Each of those years without a coordinated plan from the federal government to tackle climate change was precious time spent dithering at the starting line of the world’s most dangerous race. But with climate action, there’s no such thing as too little, too late: Tens of thousands of lives are saved by every fraction of a degree of warming we avoid.

On closer inspection, however, the legislation reveals some ugly contradictions. Foremost among them is a provision that requires the federal government to auction public lands for fossil fuel extraction before leasing them for the development of renewables. Although one environmental research firm’s analysis projects that every ton of carbon emitted from the bill will be met with 24 tons saved from clean energy investments, that is small comfort to the Appalachians blockading the Mountain Valley Pipeline or to the disproportionately Black residents fighting cancer from petrochemical refining off the coast of Louisiana.

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