Our all or nothing moment on climate

Today’s original art for The Phoenix is by Laila Arêde.

We are in a climate emergency. And you were born at just the right moment to help change everything.

Subscribe to The Phoenix to support independent climate journalism at a critical moment in history.

This is it. This is not a drill.

Over the weekend, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi signaled to her colleagues that a September 30th deadline would be in place for passing all the pending major legislation — including a federal clean energy standard, a Civilian Climate Corps, support for care workers, and billions of dollars for environmental justice.

That means this is the week that President Biden’s climate agenda — the first-ever package of climate legislation in US history — will be taken up by Congress.

It’s go time.

What’s at stake for the climate

Climate change isn’t something that’s just happening to us. It’s being done to us. It’s a trauma that’s being inflicted on us against our will.

The Biden climate agenda — a multi-trillion dollar package of legislation that will restructure America’s social and environmental safety net for generations — is a chance to begin to hold the perpetrators of the climate emergency to account.

It’s an all-or-nothing moment not just for President Biden and his party, not just for the future of the United States, but for all of us, everyone in the world.

It’s an “all” moment: The best chance to pass meaningful climate policy in US history.

It’s a “nothing” moment: The only good chance we’re likely to have until at least the last half of this decade — and maybe ever, given how fast the climate emergency is escalating.

Even Washington pundits agree: “The consequences of failure would be devastating.”

The moment when America — the og climate supervillain — starts to keep it in the ground

The US is the country with the biggest historical responsibility for climate change. Since President Biden took office, the US has ratcheted up its climate ambition at an impressive clip, and the new legislation package would put us on course to keep warming to 2°C for the first time.

That’s obviously not enough, but it’s on the verge of “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” that the IPCC said was necessary to avert irreversible climate breakdown.

The PhoenixThe era of 'rapid' climate change has begunToday’s original art for The Phoenix is by Laila Arêde. We are in a climate emergency. And you were born at just the right moment to help change everything. Subscribe to The Phoenix to support independent climate journalism at a critical moment in history…Read more2 months ago · 11 likes · 6 comments · Eric Holthaus

In a major update last month, the IPCC released the clearest statement of how dire the climate emergency has become, and the clearest call to action we’ve ever received on the existential crisis of our time: “Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.”

We know what that looks like: Shutting down the fossil fuel industry as quickly and as equitably as possible.

Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency released a landmark report saying that there’s no longer a need for new fossil fuel development. There’s a growing push to force fossil fuel companies to clean up the mess they’ve been making for more than a century.

We don’t need the fossil fuel industry anymore, and the Biden climate plan will take us a huge step towards making them obsolete, forever.

What’s in the law

What started as a bipartisan infrastructure bill has morphed into two separate bills, the second one to be passed through a budget reconciliation process to avoid being watered down by Republicans. Together they amount to a package of comprehensive climate legislation.

Political fights this summer mean that it’ll likely be both bills or nothing. Back in June, speaking about the infrastructure bill, President Biden said, "If this is the only one that comes to me, I'm not signing it."

The second bill is where the heart of the progress is: Climate, care, jobs, justice. The inclusion of a federal clean energy standard would require the US to produce 80% of its power by renewable energy by 2030, and 100% by 2035. Support for care workers will elevate America’s social safety net to a level that will allow people the freedom to devote time to issues that matter to them, like climate. Millions of new jobs — and a redistribution of wealth away from the wealthy people who cause climate change — will help reduce inequality and move toward an economy that works for everyone. And billions of dollars of funding to repair centuries-long injustices will kick off an era of reparations and equity.

This week’s fight is about making sure as much of that good stuff gets in as possible.

It’s not perfect, of course

Biden has been trying to have it both ways on climate — actively permitting new oil and gas leases even while he fights for climate legislation — so these new laws are not going to be enough to get us to where we need to be.

There’s also a chance that some shitty stuff gets thrown in by moderate senators in order to win their vote. We’ve got to put the pressure on them to make sure they don’t do that.

Once it’s passed, there will be a lot of criticism that it wasn’t enough, it messed some things up, or made some things worse. That’s the reality of having a divided, polarized Congress.

The bottom line is: this is a once-in-a-generation chance to shift the course of history.

This is what we’ve been working for

What happens this week will determine the course of the climate emergency not only for Americans, but for the whole world. Do everything you can this week to make sure people in power understand what’s at stake.

Text ALERT to 88504 to get live updates this week from the Sunrise Movement.

I’ll also be trying to keep up on Twitter and in our daily newsletters at Currently to make sure you know how you can help. Let’s do this.