In 101 months, the United States will have achieved President Biden’s most important climate promise — or it will have fallen short. Right now it is seriously falling short, and for each month that passes, it becomes harder to succeed until at some point — perhaps very soon — it will become virtually impossible. That’s true for the United States, and also true for the planet, as nearly 200 nations strive to tackle climate change with a fast-dwindling timeline for doing so.
This is crucial context for the news late last week that Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), after months of negotiations with his fellow Democrats, is balking at new climate policies. The stated reason for Manchin’s hesitation is raging inflation, a serious concern. But there is always a reason to delay action, and time is not forgiving when it comes to the warming climate.
At the center of the Biden administration’s climate policy is a promise, made in 2021, to slash U.S. emissions by 50 to 52 percent by the end of 2030 — 101 months from this August — against what they were in 2005. Achieving this target would require a significant reshuffling of the American economy — millions of new electric cars on the road, transformations of key industries to rely more on renewable energy, and probably millions of jobs focused on making this happen.
The climate legislation making its way through the Senate would have sped that transition along through enhanced tax credits for renewable energy and electric vehicles, among other energy-related incentives and provisions.
Moving fast is necessary to maintain consistency with 2015’s Paris climate agreement, in which nations agreed to take significant measures to avoid the levels of global warming associated with severe climate impact. Scientists broadly agree that emissions need to be cut approximately in half by 2030 to avoid those outcomes.
The targets remain. But after Manchin’s move, the legislation to achieve it seems to have been tabled indefinitely. [Continue reading…]
Across Europe, the human toll of the continent’s most recent heat wave was becoming increasingly visible Monday. Thousands more people were expected to be evacuated amid rapidly spreading wildfires in Spain, France and Portugal. Authorities warned that the heat would degrade air quality in major urban population centers, and hundreds were feared dead from the high temperatures. Much of Italy’s north, which is facing one of its worst droughts in decades, remained under a state of emergency.
In many parts of France and Spain, firefighting services and hospitals were increasingly under strain. France’s Interior Ministry announced it would deploy hundreds of additional firefighters to the most severely hit regions, including the popular beaches and vacation spots on the country’s west coast. In Spain, authorities said in many places, the available firefighting planes were already working at capacity.
“Full solidarity with firefighters and disaster victims,” wrote French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne. Her Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, on Sunday paid tribute to a dead emergency service worker.
Hospital unions in France and other countries warned that the heat is putting an additional burden on services that are already dealing with a renewed rise in coronavirus-linked hospitalizations in recent weeks.
Models by Spain’s public Carlos III Institute estimate that over 350 people died as a result of heat in the country last week — far above the weekly average of about 60 deaths but largely comparable to the toll of similar heat episodes in prior years. Over 800 heat-linked deaths were reported by the institute in June, when similarly scorching temperatures hit the country and other parts of Europe, with temperatures reaching between 104 and 110 degrees (40 to 43 Celsius).
The U.K. Health Security Agency issued its highest level-four heat alert, warning illness and death could occur “among the fit and healthy.” [Continue reading…]