JOSLIN: Landmark climate bill a step in the right direction

FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2020, file photo dark clouds and heavy rain sweep over the U.S. Capitol in Washington. At least a government shutdown is off the table. But as lawmakers straggle back to Washington for an abbreviated pre-election session, hopes are fading for a pandemic relief bill, or much else. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2020, file photo dark clouds and heavy rain sweep over the U.S. Capitol in Washington. At least a government shutdown is off the table. But as lawmakers straggle back to Washington for an abbreviated pre-election session, hopes are fading for a pandemic relief bill, or much else. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Grayson Joslin is a sophomore journalism and political science major and writes “Soapbox” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. 

Climate change is, in the words of one former vice president, “An Inconvenient Truth”.

Al Gore’s 2006 documentary opened the public’s eyes on climate change and was the catalyst of the current environmental movement. It showcased what humans were doing to the environment of our planet, and if we didn’t correct our self-destructive behaviors, humanity’s only home would become less and less suitable for life. 

The documentary, alongside dim reports about the future of our planet and Greta Thunburg’s blunt criticism of world leaders not doing enough to counteract the climate crisis, has galvanized many concerned citizens the world over to preserve the health of planet Earth. While Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” may have birthed the environmentalist movement, Al Gore’s plea to save our planet injected energy into a dying movement for our dying planet. 

I was inspired by former Vice President Gore’s famous slideshow presentation, and I have hoped in recent years that the United States would take the necessary steps to help mitigate the damage of our current climate emergency.

This week showed that America is taking those steps. On Sunday, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 passed the Senate thanks to a tiebreaker vote by Vice President Kamala Harris, and is now expected to be passed in the House of Representatives. This move represents the biggest piece of climate legislation to pass Congress in decades. The legislation includes the largest clean energy investment in our nation’s history, with over $300 billion being allocated towards green energy.  

$60 billion of the bill was also allocated for the construction of renewable energy structures. The bill also includes tax credit incentives for individuals who own an electric vehicle.

The passing of this act continues a major shift away from the Trump administration, which withdrew from the Paris Agreement and replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with a new plan focused on drilling across the nation, including in national parks. Even though this new legislation represents a step in the right direction, the United States still has a long way to go in order to help preserve life on our planet.    

The bill that was passed in the Senate was significantly scaled down from its prior iterations. When the Democrats first introduced climate legislation last year in the first year of President Biden’s term, it was supposed to be a $555 billion package. In order to meet the concerns of moderate Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), almost a third of the funding was cut.

In July, President Biden said “It's a compromise. But it's often how progress is made,” in reference to the bill. With this, it means that there is still a provision in the legislation that permits leasing for drilling on public lands. Compromises may be acceptable on other matters, but compromises are not appropriate when it comes to the future of our planet, which is experiencing more disastrous weather events, most likely caused by climate change, with each passing year.

The good news is that more bipartisan progress is being made. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act of 2022 has already been passed in the House, and has been introduced in the Senate with 25 Democratic sponsors and 16 Republican sponsors. If it passes the Senate and lands on President Biden’s desk, it will provide $1.3 billion dollars to protect vulnerable wildlife that are endangered or could be considered endangered soon. 

This could hopefully be a good sign of things to come when it comes to saving our planet. In a country where the partisan divide seems to grow with each passing day, seeing both sides come together to pass important legislation seems like a relic of past generations. However, with the need for humanity to take all steps necessary to prevent further environmental catastrophe, let’s hope that Washington’s elite can put aside their bickering to combat an issue bigger than any other. 

Combating climate change is not a partisan issue, nor is it a moral issue. It is an humanity issue, and unfortunately people in our country do not seem to understand the seismic impact that it will have if we do not do our part. A Pew Research Study in September 2021 found that only 60% of Americans were concerned that climate change would impact them in their own lifetimes. That is down from 72% from the international community. 

Americans are more divided than other nations when it comes to climate change, and we have been shuffling our feet when it comes to contributing our role in fighting for our planet. The Kyoto Protocol was an important agreement that saw many world powers agree to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions in the period from 2008 until 2020. The United States, despite being at the talks, passed a unanimous resolution rejecting the signing of the treaty. This meant that the US had major ground to catch up while the other major powers were beginning to sign more aggressive eco-friendly policies into law. 

The fact that the top politicians in Washington have finally come together to provide a new basis for the fight against climate change is great, but it should have happened earlier. We have been too complacent, and politicians have been too worried about their public support to do something that will benefit us and the planet. 

The only way that we can make meaningful change in our fight is if we, the American public, do our part. Most of us are still using gas-guzzling vehicles and using one-time disposable water bottles, but that needs to change. We must be willing to sacrifice the easy parts of our life to make way for a better future for our planet and our descendants. 

Released alongside “An Inconvenient Truth” was a song specifically made for the film; “I Need to Wake Up” by Melissa Etheridge. The song encourages people to stop being careless and to make changes to combat climate change. This is a message that everyone across this nation needs to hear; from farmers, to Fortune 500 executives, and politicians. What Congress is doing is a start, but we must all wake up in order to prevent our planet from descending into catastrophe. 

Contact Grayson Joslin with comments at or on Twitter @GraysonMJoslin.


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