Many parts of federal policy change back and forth over time. Taxes rise and fall, as do spending on anti-poverty programs and the military. If a policy package doesn’t last a year, it can expire in a future year, and the long-term trajectory of the United States probably won’t be affected much.
Climate policy is different.
The world has already warmed to dangerous levels. Heat waves, forest fires, droughts and severe storms are becoming more frequent. The Arctic is melting and the seas are rising. If countries don’t act quickly to slow their greenhouse gas emissions — and, more generally, slow global warming — the damage could be catastrophic, scientists warn.
The US has an extremely important role to play in the fight against climate change. It has produced far more greenhouse gases throughout history than any other nation and remains a leading source of emissions today. In recent years, the US has done significantly less to reduce emissions than Europe. The US also remains the most powerful country in the world, with the ability to influence climate policy in China, India and elsewhere.
Until yesterday, the Democratic Party looked like it was on the verge of blowing a big opportunity to fight climate change. Democrats control both Congress and the presidency, yet they have been unable to agree on a package of climate policies to accelerate the use of clean energy and reduce emissions. Sen. Joe Manchin has blocked any deal, and the Senate is so divided that Democrats can’t afford to lose a single vote.
Yesterday, however, Manchin appeared to have changed his mind. He announced that he had agreed to include hundreds of billions of dollars for climate and energy programs in a bill that would also lower prescription drug prices, raise taxes on the wealthy and shrink the federal deficit.
If Manchin and other Democrats remain united, that would be a very big deal. “This has the potential to be a huge breakthrough for climate progress,” Sam Ricketts, co-founder of environmental group Evergreen Action, told The Times.
This is especially important because Republicans in Congress are almost uniformly opposed to policies to slow climate change (contrast with conservatives in many other countries). And it remains unclear whether Democrats will regain control of Congress and the White House anytime soon. If Congress fails to pass a climate bill this summer, it may not for years — while the devastating effects of climate change worsen.
After all the recent wrangling between Democrats, I know many people remain skeptical that they really have a deal until Congress passes a bill. This skepticism makes sense. The deal announced last night between Manchin and Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Senate Democrats, is different from a full bill that could pass both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
But I would say this: If this tentative agreement leads to legislation, it will likely have more lasting impact than anything else President Biden signs in his first two years in office.
Life Lived: Tony Doe rose to fame at a young age as Wally Cleaver on the 1950s sitcom Leave It to Beaver. At first he resented the way the role portrayed him, but said that changed with age: “At 40, I realized how great the show was.” He died at 77.
SPORTS NEWS FROM ATHLETIC
Clearing and Trading: The Mets completed a two-game sweep against the Yankees yesterday, but just minutes after the final out, the Bronx Bombers traded for Andrew Benintendi, one of the best bats on the market.
DK Metcalf “holds”: The Seahawks wide receiver attended Wednesday’s practice but declined to participate while the team works on a new contract for him.
Mike Trout’s rare condition: The Angels’ superstar outfielder is dealing with a rare back ailment, a team trainer said. There is no timetable for his return to the lineup, although Trout said he plans to play again this season.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Have you seen this boot?
The producers of the Broadway revival of “Into the Woods” are looking for a special prop: a giant inflatable boot that hung over the theater’s facade in the 1980s. The boot returned for the show’s 2002 revival, but was hidden away when the weather turned bad. Now nobody knows where he is, writes James Barron.
“It was literally the beacon that called us all into the theater,” said producer Jordan Roth. “I think why it captured our imaginations was the way it really fleshed out that show’s impossible balance between whimsy and weight.”
Some suspect it was cut into pieces. Others say the manufacturers just haven’t looked in the right place. “It’s in stock,” said Michael David, executive producer of the original series. “I just don’t know where in the warehouse.”