Manchin to Climate: Drop Dead.

July 15, 2022 | 3:44 pm
Ben Stansall/Getty Images
Kristy Dahl
Principal Climate Scientist

Just two weeks after the US Supreme Court voted to handcuff EPA efforts to regulate power plant emissions, Senator Joe Manchin’s abominable decision to pull back from supporting funding for climate and environmental justice initiatives in a budget reconciliation bill—at least until September—has dealt a deep, potentially knock-out blow to the US’s efforts to tackle climate change.

I should probably write a post about how Manchin’s framing of his decision as being about our current, genuinely difficult economic reality is just dead wrong because, over and over again, analyses show that spending to address climate change now will save us enormously in the decades ahead.

I could write a post updating my framing of the SCOTUS decision in a recent interview with CNN’s Kim Brunhaber: that the EPA must make the most of its remaining authority to address emissions, state-level efforts to cut emissions must grow, and Congress must pass a reconciliation bill with robust funding for climate and clean energy if we are to live up to our 2030 emissions reduction goals. If we are left with just two legs on that already wobbly stool, a post about what we can still accomplish with those two legs and why we so desperately need the third would be appropriate, I’m sure.

Or how about a post comparing the $300 billion that reconciliation package could have invested in climate, jobs, and justice over the next ten years to other buckets of funding Congress has authorized over the past year—the $768 billion allocated to the Department of Defense for this year alone or the $54 billion in military aid to Ukraine since March, for example? A post that questions our priorities as a nation.

Or a post dissecting the level of fossil fuel industry support Joe Manchin and several of our supposedly non-partisan Supreme Court justices receive. A post about how out of step Congress is with the climate and energy policies Democratic and Republican voters want to see. A post about what it signals to the rest of the world that the nation that has contributed the most to global warming emissions over time refuses to take responsibility for its actions.

But writing any of those posts would require analytical level-headedness to outweigh the rage, disappointment, and heartache I feel right now. None of them would reveal how utterly gut wrenching it is to try to explain to my kids why I’m upset. None of them would keep me from feeling like Manchin’s announcements and walkbacks over the last 24 hours are transparently callous, politically motivated equivocations. And none of them would prepare me for the question I dread getting most from reporters in the coming days: “Is there any hope left?”

Those posts also wouldn’t capture what I know to be true about the climate community: we will wake up fighting this fight tomorrow and the next day and the next until it’s clear that the politicians and justices who held our climate hostage were on the wrong side of history. Until the science in our papers—rather than the fossil fuel money in politicians’ pockets—dictates our policies. Until we are racing down a one-way path toward a clean and resilient future.

In the coming days, weeks, and months, we’ll keep pushing for the robust inclusion of climate, environmental justice, and energy initiatives in a reconciliation bill. In the process, we’ll write those posts and many more. We’ll come up with new strategies, we’ll talk about them in the news, we’ll adjust our models to reflect evolving realities, we’ll come up with the best words we can muster that balance cold, hard reality with kernels of the hope we carry with us to keep ourselves sane.

For at least a few hours, though, I’ll be following the recipe I’ve honed over time and pull out when I need to repair my armor or pick myself up off the floor. In case your armor, too, is in need of repair, here’s my recipe:

  • Listen to Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville at top volume. Take her power and make it your own.
  • Go on the prettiest, most peaceful walk or hike you can get to easily. Remind yourself that the Earth is a wondrous place.
  • Read something beautiful or sad or beautiful and sad. Remember that progress is often slow and hard won, even when it shouldn’t have to be.
  • Wrap your hands around a cup of something fragrant and tasty. Sip slowly and savor.
  • Two words: baked goods.

Once you’ve caught your breath, pick up the phone and call your senators to tell them that the Senate’s inaction on climate is unacceptable.   

Joe Manchin and the Supreme Court have undeniably stalled and obstructed climate action with their decisions this summer. It sucks and it’s maddening, but this is in no way an ending. We are the climate movement. This fight is everything, and we will never stop.

About the author

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Kristina Dahl is principal climate scientist for the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In her role, she provides scientific direction, strategic thinking, and technical and analytical expertise for the climate team as well as across UCS campaigns and programs. Her research focuses on the impact of climate change, particularly sea level rise and extreme heat, on people and places.