While many await implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and its anticipated changing of the calculus in the fight for an effective national climate policy that includes strengthening federal capacity to regulate emissions, many of the variables that will determine how the climate crisis unfolds.
The IRA essentially invests in a national shift towards emissions-reducing energies and specific investments in frontline communities that have suffered disproportionate harm. It does not change the most fundamental drivers of the crisis. It does not change pro-growth policies that drive a culture of unsustainable population growth, one that places the costs of growth on women and children - and disproportionately on communities of color and their future generations- and ensures the benefits of growth flow largely to wealthy men.
That culture is not just about numbers. The unsustainable growth is ensured by not ensuring children minimum levels of welfare at birth, even the basics called for by the Children’s Rights Convention. It is ensured by not ensuring anything remotely approaching equality of opportunity, with our culture of "private" family planning that condemns black families and children to a tiny fraction of the wealth of white families. That growth is ensured by using an anthropogenic baseline for environmental policy, rather than an ecocentric one, that replicates the mistakes that caused the crisis, treating nature as an endless human resource.
Yes, the IRA ensures $369 billion in investments in climate and clean energy programs, mostly toward tax credits for renewable energy. And some have predicted the investments will reduce greenhouse gas emissions forty percent below peak levels by 2030.
But given the fundamental variables it does not addressing, the IRA is the beginning, and not the end, of serious climate reform and the United States restoring some form of leadership on environmental issues. Many have questioned whether the IRA will have the impact legislators claim, given how quickly the climate crisis has accelerated and blown past many of the predictions legislators rely upon, perhaps it's better to see the Act as a start gun to the race for the future rather than a glide path to safety.
The IRA only deals with some of the variables that will determine how the crisis unfolds, leaving many addressed.
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In order to meet the demands of younger generations to be truly protected from the climate crisis, the heat waves of which are killing more and more people around the world as the warming accelerates, the United States will have to reach many of the issues that are now being ignored but which will determine the outcomes.
Two factors often ignored, but which must be included in policy reforms if we intend to truly mitigate the crisis, include ensuring accurate measuring of super emissions like methane and stabilization of world population, an underlying driver of the crisis that has already undone many attempts to reduce emissions.
What good are emissions reductions plans if we do not know who is emitting what pollutant, and the exact quantities, or if we are undoing mitigation by increasing the underlying multiplier of emissions - our population?
Family planning reforms to ensure a sustainable population are crucial not just because they can push the arc of population growth in a way that most effectively addresses emissions long term, but unlike other policy areas they can ensure investments in future generations that will make them resilient enough to withstand the worsening conditions.
Humans cannot be separated from the environments in which they live and accounting for emissions without accounting for the emitters is poor policy.
And while new technologies can address the first problem of accurate measurement, we have the option of investing heavily in you women's education, as well as more novel option of linking equity-based policies like "baby bonds" to sustainable family planning initiatives.
If the IRA marks the beginning of a sea change in climate policy the next steps in that process must entail going beyond limiting emissions and towards mitigating risk factors that are politically sensitive, but crucial for success.
Ignoring variables like accurate emissions measurement and underlying population growth is the sort of short-sightedness that created the climate crisis. We cannot afford to make the same mistakes again.