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Will climate action happen now?

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Will climate action happen now?

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Politicians, journalists and activists all like to use the phrase “last, best chance” when talking about the climate. A sin: The Glasgow Climate Conference is the world’s last and best chance to avert terrible climate destruction. Or: The United States now faces its last and best chance to deal with the climate crisis.

It’s a catchy phrase. But this is a mistaken idea.

The ravages of climate change are not a binary, on-or-off issue. Many problems, such as increased flooding, wildfires, heat waves and severe storms, have already started. Whether their situation worsens will depend on how aggressively the world acts to slow climate change, now and in the future. Immediate action can have a greater impact, scientists say, but future action will not be unimportant.

“The reason I’m pushing back on the ‘last, best hope’ framework is that we need to realize that tackling climate change is both urgent and a long game,” Nat Keohane, president of the Center for Climate and EnergySolutions. . “We need to dramatically accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, and that’s going to take decades.”

It’s true that many experts feel a particular urgency about climate legislation – but the reason is more political than scientific: if Congress doesn’t pass a bill to slow carbon emissions in the next few months, it may not be for years.

In the United States today, only one of the two major political parties is concerned about climate change – the Democratic Party. Republicans in Congress have opposed nearly every major effort to fight change in the 21st century. Just like the last two Republican presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Some Republicans say they support certain climate policies, like a carbon tax, but they tend to only do so when policies are theoretical, not when they need to be voted on.

This opposition is different from the approach taken by many other conservative parties around the world. But there is no indication that Republicans will change their position any time soon.

If the United States wants to act on climate in the foreseeable future, it will almost certainly have to be done through a Democratic bill, passed along partisan lines in Congress and signed by a Democratic president.

At present, such a bill is conceivable. Democrats control both houses of Congress as well as the White House. After 2022, however, Democrats may have to wait years before regaining control. Republicans are very likely to retake the House in the midterm elections. In the Senate, where small rural states have a lot of power, Republicans have an inherent advantage.

More broadly, the Democratic Party has been losing working class votes for years and does not seem determined to reverse the trend. Many Democratic politicians continue to favor a socially liberal agenda, with positions that are at least somewhat to the left of public opinion on religion, guns, crime, abortion, immigration, affirmative action and American history, among other issues.

The program is strongly supported by the college graduates who lead and shape the Democratic Party — but not shared by many working-class voters. And college graduates remain a minority of the electorate, which helps explain why Democratic candidates are struggling in so many states and congressional districts, including those with racial diversity.

Together, these political forces mean that the next few months present a rare chance to pass major climate legislation. “This is a watershed moment in the climate crisis,” said Jamal Raad, executive director of climate advocacy group Evergreen Action.

During President Biden’s press conference on Wednesday, he said he now wants to split his Build Back Better legislative agenda into at least two parts. The climate provisions appear to have stronger Democratic support than proposals on taxes, health care and other issues. (Here’s the latest on the Capitol Hill negotiations, from Emily Cochrane of The Times.)

Just listen to Sen. Joe Manchin, the most prominent Democratic opponent of Biden’s comprehensive plan: “Climate is an issue that we can probably come to agreement on a lot easier than anything else,” a- he said this month. Manchin doesn’t favor all of Biden’s climate proposals, but he favors many, and it’s not hard to envision a compromise, as New York magazine’s Eric Levitz explained.

My colleagues Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman report that a growing number of congressional Democrats favor prioritizing climate provisions, given the stakes. Coral and Lisa also write, “The New York Times asked each of the 50 Senate Republicans if he or she would only support the climate provisions of the Build Back Better Act if presented in a standalone bill. None said they would.

These climate provisions are ambitious enough to make a difference, believe many scientists. They would cost about $555 billion over 10 years, about a quarter less than Biden’s full plan. Among the main components:

  • The biggest pot of money would subsidize wind, solar and nuclear power, making them cheaper for businesses, communities and households.

  • Many consumers would receive a $7,500 rebate on an electric vehicle — and an additional $4,500 if unionized workers in the United States assembled the car. Consumers could also receive subsidies for solar panels and energy-efficient appliances.

  • The bill would fund research into technology that would capture carbon after it is emitted, rather than allowing it to contribute to the greenhouse effect.

During the 2020 campaign, Biden and many other Democrats pledged to do everything they could to slow climate change and reduce its harmful consequences. The next few months will determine whether they succeed. As Keohane says, the notion of “last, best chance” is closer to the truth than it usually is.

Related: Last year was the fifth hottest on record on Earth, says my colleague Raymond Zhong. The seven hottest years, by far, have been the last seven.

  • Meat Loaf, the larger-than-life singer and actor, has passed away. His “Bat Out of Hell” was one of the best-selling albums of all time.

  • A report has revealed that retired Pope Benedict XVI failed to act against abusive priests earlier in his career, when he was archbishop.

  • Intel will spend $20 billion on new factories to manufacture more chips in the United States and ease shortages.

  • Federal prosecutors have dropped their case against an MIT professor accused of hiding his ties to China.

  • The Nazis planned the “Final Solution” 80 years ago. It took 90 minutes.

The State of American Politics Makes Us Sick, Says Michelle Goldberg.

Restoring normality is more important to Biden’s fate than passing laws, Matthew Yglesias writing.

Wirecutter Tips: An elegant and not too expensive wine glass.

Lives Lived: Hardy Kruger left war-torn Germany to pursue an acting career. As one reviewer put it, he “helped Germany create a new image for itself in the world” in films like “Flight of the Phoenix” and “A Bridge Too Far.” He died at 93.

At first glance, Jasper Johns’ 1961 painting “In Memory of My Feelings – Frank O’Hara” is a cold sea of ​​gray. It would fit the artist’s reputation, writes Times critic Jason Farago: “Saturnian, cunning, elegant, reserved. The master of restraint.

In reality, the painting bursts with emotion, as Jason explains in a new episode of the “Close Read” series, in which Times writers walk you through great works of art.

Some clues are hidden in the paint; others come from the details of Johns’ life, friendships, and grief. With its meaning revealed, writes Jason, the work “delivers a roundhouse of passion and pain.”

The piece is at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York until February, as part of a Johns retrospective exhibition. (It’s normally at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.) If you go, Jason encourages you to spend a little more time with this painting, especially the lower right quadrant.

The secret to an easy homemade pizza? French bread – store bought is fine.

The Times editors recommend 11 new books, including novels by Noah Hawley and first author Xochitl Gonzalez.

‘A Hero’, Oscar-winning actor Asghar Farhadi’s latest film, follows a suspected Good Samaritan.

The hosts thought back to Biden’s freshman year.

Test your knowledge of this week’s headlines.

Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was amicably. Here’s today’s puzzle — or you can play online.

Here’s today’s mini-crossword, and a hint: Attack with vigor (six letters).

If you want to play more, find all our games here.


Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you Monday. – David

PS Edward VIII became King of England 86 years ago. He abdicated the throne less than a year later.

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