The USA begins its most ambitious climate action ever — and everybody wins.

Wow, we’re impressed.

Government legislation seems to be an endless story of tradeoffs: cutting funding here to ramp up there, increasing this tax to offset that deficit, ramping up spending to avoid recession….

The tired tradeoff saga is all the more familiar on environmental issues — most of us have an implied understanding that good environmental practices are moral obligations with a price tag, not an investment that will personally yield us dividends.

Maybe that’s why the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) feels like such a breath of fresh air.

The IRA was born out of the floundering Build Back Better Plan and, as of 12 August 2022, has passed both the House and the Senate despite round opposition from all Republicans. Once signed by President Biden it will become law.

In a striking departure from the frequent you-give-I-take vibe of much of politics, the IRA appears to be the kickoff of a virtuous cycle that will raise all boats. The proposal promises to reduce healthcare costs and energy bills across the nation AND reduce carbon emissions by about 40% by the end of the decade, among other wins. The work will be funded by closing two key tax loopholes currently leveraged by high-net worth corporations and individuals.

American households will see an average of US$1,800 in annual savings through the IRA, and the emissions reductions will represent a massive leap toward American and Paris Agreement commitments to achieving net-zero by 2030.

Money is an effective barrier to a lot of things, and the amount we have generally determines how much we stand to benefit from public initiatives. Most of us can still buy food and lodging even as prices rise. Massive wealth is an even more air-tight bubble that offers the best healthcare, personal security, and private infrastructure. But no amount of money can protect you from calamity in your biosphere.

As it turns out, the notion that environmental issues are sunk costs or mere moral obligation is dead wrong– on the contrary, a happy planet earth is perhaps the only thing that even the ultra-wealthy cannot create alone. And when we work together, literally everybody wins.

Originally published 15 August 2022 at Scriptorium.


carbon, carbon emissions, dividends, emissions reduction, Inflation Reduction Act, investment, Paris Agreement, policy

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