At the beginning of summer, it looked as though Congress would spend yet another session failing to act on climate change. Then Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) announced unexpectedly in late July that he would vote for a major climate bill, which Democrats promptly passed on a party-line vote. Suddenly, the United States has what many observers had all but assumed was unattainable: an ambitious, legislated strategy to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, setting the country on course to reduce its carbon footprint by roughly 40 percent by 2030.
A difference of 15 percentage points might seem small relative to the volume of environmentalists’ loud cheering about the law. Yet it implies that the United States will slash emissions at roughly double the pace it did between 2005 and 2020, and with some of the easiest shifts already made. Moreover, a future Republican president cannot easily rip up this new policy. Before now, climate wonks rested their hopes on President Biden taking executive actions that might not survive his administration. “The period of American exceptionalism on climate policy — that is, not having a climate policy — is over,” said the Michael Greenstone, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago.
Big challenges remain.