Coal Baron Manchin Kills What Could Be Nation’s Last Best Chance on Climate

In a tyrannical move that will have lasting consequences for everyone alive and their progeny, conservative coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) told Democratic leaders on Thursday that he will not support a reconciliation package that contains provisions to mitigate the climate crisis.

This is a major blow to the Democrats — as well as to the planet’s dying species and anyone invested in inhabiting a livable planet — who were hoping to get about $300 billion or more in funding for climate and energy spending aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions with tax incentives for clean energy and electric vehicle expansion. The bill is modeled after last year’s Build Back Better Act, which Manchin also killed after months of stringing Democrats along in negotiations.

This was likely Democrats’ last chance to pass climate action before the midterm elections, in which early analyses predict that Democrats will lose at least one chamber of Congress. Thanks to Republicans working to nearly outright rig elections and the rapidly waning popularity of President Joe Biden, Democrats could also lose the presidency in 2024. Having a Republican in the White House would essentially ensure that the country doesn’t pass major federal climate bills until at least 2029.

Unless individual states introduce major climate bills and Biden uses his executive power to make unilateral moves like declaring a climate emergency and halting all new drilling on federal lands — as climate advocates have called for for years — the U.S. is likely to fall far short of its Paris Agreement pledge to cut emissions by half of 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

As of now, thanks to Manchin, the U.S. is set to meet only about 24 to 35 percent emissions cuts by 2030, researchers found in a report published this week. This would likely also mean that the country won’t meet 100 percent emissions reductions by 2050, which climate experts say is necessary to prevent some of the worst impacts of the climate crisis projected in the decades to come.

Not meeting these goals would be devastating for people worldwide. The U.S. is consistently one of the highest emitters of carbon, along with China, India and Russia. If the U.S. doesn’t act fast to reach net zero carbon emissions or eliminate fossil fuel usage altogether, the country could even end up increasing the amount of carbon dioxide that it emits every year starting in 2030, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The ramifications of that scenario would be utterly disastrous.

Climate advocates condemned Manchin’s announcement, warning of the consequences if Democrats don’t whip the senator in line or otherwise work around him.

“This is nothing short of a death sentence,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, per Common Dreams. “Our democracy is broken when one man who profits from the fossil fuel industry can defy the 81 million Americans who voted for Democrats to stop the climate crisis. It’s clear appealing to corporate obstructionists doesn’t work, and it will cost us a generation of voters.”

Lawmakers also expressed frustration on Thursday night, and called for lawmakers to double down on forcing climate provisions through Congress, one way or another. “Let me be clear — unless Congress takes bold and necessary action on climate change — a livable future is lost,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts). “Young people have acted bravely and relentlessly in defense of not just our planet, but their very lives. Another world is possible. We must have the courage to deliver it.”

“Manchin is forcing a deal that would abandon our obligation to act urgently on climate, strengthen social services, and prevent mass suffering,” said Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri). “We must organize inside and outside of Congress — together — to ensure Manchin does not get away with this outrageous, failed leadership.”

Climate advocates like the Sunrise Movement and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) have laid out a number of actions that Biden can take to tackle the climate crisis.

They say that Biden could tighten limits on pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane, and issue regulations within a wide swath of agencies like the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — action by a “thousand cuts,” as Whitehouse put it. Biden could also direct the EPA to designate greenhouse gasses as pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act, which would enable the government to put a national cap on emissions, the Sunrise Movement says.

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