Is the Historic Climate Bill Enough to Save the Planet?


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Last week, after more than a year of drama and deal-cutting, the Senate passed a complicated piece of legislation called the Inflation Reduction Act. Its name notwithstanding, it’s being celebrated as the most important piece of climate legislation in the history of this country. And that is “a pretty low bar,” the staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells David Remnick, “because they’ve never really passed a piece of legislation on climate change.” Although the bill is far smaller than the proposed Build Back Better legislation, Kolbert notes, it includes significant tax credits that will incentivize the adoption of lower-carbon technologies. But the name of the bill, which seems to recognize that a mass of voters cares more about the price of oil than a habitable planet, suggests that the political head winds have not slackened. “George Bush famously said, back in the early nineties, [that] our way of life is not up for negotiation,” Kolbert states. “Well . . . our way of life may not be compatible with dealing with climate change.” She mentions the recent devastating floods in Kentucky, a red state: “Is Kentucky now going to go vote for people who are firmly committed to climate action? I sadly don’t expect that to happen.”

Kolbert is the author of books including “The Sixth Extinction” and “Under a White Sky.”

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