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  • Sheri Rivlin Allan Rivlin

Why Isn’t Congress Doing Enough to Fight Climate Change?

By Sheri Rivlin and Allan Rivlin

The website (no relation to our book with the same name) just published our civil exchange with Matthew Huber of Syracuse University about what will be necessary to really take the danger of our warming planet seriously. There was not much difference between our view and Matt Huber’s on many of the larger points: the reality and immediacy of the harm to the planet, the inadequacy of Washington’s response to date, and the need for extraordinary Congressional action and soon. We differ in meaningful ways on language, tactics, and political strategy to get from where we are to where we need to be.

Huber states that the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act was “woefully insufficient to address the climate crisis,” he supports a full scale mobilization of the public sector along the lines of the Green New Deal to fight climate change, and he calls for political revolution, as Senator Bernie Sanders uses the term, so our elected leaders will follow the will of the voters rather than the oil companies that fund their campaigns. We agree, strongly, with most of his assertions, except that last part. Congress is doing too little but not because the oil companies own their votes, but sadly, because voters do not have enough will to push Congress to support the Green New Deal policies we need.

We encourage you to read the exchange where Huber makes his case forcefully and eloquently and we respond with our call for a national consensus for bipartisan action to address climate change. We need more public education and environmental activism because do not yet have broad national support for the dramatic efforts to fight climate change such as the Green New Deal if it involves any measure of sacrifice from consumers in the form of higher taxes or higher energy prices. This last part does not show up in every public opinion poll, because it is easy to register large majorities in favor of specific elements of the Green New Deal, but the Green New Deal as a whole gets lower levels of support, and this can be turned to opposition with simple messaging that the green new deal would send taxes and gas prices higher. Still, there is reason for optimism that this is could soon change.

The combined effects of climate scholars like Huber raising the alarm, with the arrival of tangible effects of climate change in the form of stronger hurricanes, more frequent tornadoes, droughts, forest fires, and rising sea levels are bringing the future predicted in Al Gore’s 2006 book and movie “An Inconvenient Truth” into our present lives. It will also help that a new generation that is squarely focused on this issue is rising into voting habits and will be replacing their grandparents in the electorate. Public opinion, generally and within both political parties, is moving in the direction of support for decarbonization, but it has not yet moved far enough to drive a congressional mandate for action.

When the public reaches a consensus judgement that we must act boldly to protect planet earth, even if it means higher taxes and or higher energy prices, congress can be expected to act even if it is in defiance of the wishes and campaign donations of the oil companies. It likely will be too little for many environmental activists, and we can all agree that is will be far too late, but history proves America can mobilize to fight any challenge when Americans are united in by a clear and increasingly present danger.

Here again, is the link to our exchange with Matthew Huber on

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