A Political Turning Point on Climate and Progressive Change?

The human species is on a race to see which tipping point we reach first. One would come about if there is so much destructive disruption of the earth’s ecosystems because of the overheating of the atmosphere and oceans that life on earth will be a living hell for those who survive. It would take centuries or millennia before we return to the relatively stable climate we have experienced for thousands of years.

The other tipping point is a political tipping point, a sea change in how seriously humanity as a whole, worldwide, takes the climate emergency and takes action accordingly.

What happens in the USA has a great deal to do with which of these wins out. We are the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter when it comes to cumulative emissions since the industrial revolution began 250 or so years ago. We are also a dominant nation in the world, if not as much as in the past, politically, economically and militarily.

So are we at or approaching such a political tipping point in the USA right now? Was the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) by Congress, billed by most of the mass media as primarily a climate bill, a bill which will accelerate sufficiently the urgently needed shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy, while opening the way for the kind of progressive changes on a range of issues that will prevent a pro-dirty energy, counter-revolution?

I think it might be, despite its disturbing provisions supporting the fossil fuel industry, particularly oil and gas in the Gulf and Alaska, limited environmental justice provisions, limited support to mass transit, and other weaknesses. There was a lot in the bill which will advance solar and wind energy, electric cars, battery storage and electric heat pumps for heating and cooling. Without question, these are all sectors of the 21st century economy which must grow as rapidly as possible if we are to avoid full out, escalating climate and societal breakdown. If the IRA becomes a down payment leading toward much stronger and much more consistent legislation at the scale of the crisis, it will have been a definite win.

It looks like the IRA’s passage has led the US mass media to be making the connections more frequently between extreme weather events and global heating. That is a big deal, if it continues, which it should if the climate justice and progressive movements keep building the visible and activist mass movements which, indeed, had much to do with the IRA becoming law.

It also looks right now, two months before the November 8 federal elections, that there is a decent chance that the Democrats are going to retain control of the Senate and probably gain at least two seats, neutralizing Manchin and Sinema’s poisonous effects that we’ve seen during the first two years of the Biden Presidency. Since the Supreme Court’s misogynist decision overturning Roe vs. Wade, there has been a decided political shift among potential voters which makes it possible that the Dems could end up controlling not just the Senate but the House.

These extremely important developments will only happen if there is extensive and determined organizing to bring out the progressive and justice vote all over the country. This needs to be done not just by the Democratic Party and its candidates but by others not controlled by the Dems who understand the critical nature of these next two months electorally.

But there is one more immediate fight which we must also win, and do so this month: the fight to defeat the Dirty Manchin Side Deal, beginning with preventing it being included as part of a “continuing resolution” to keep the government funded which has a  September 30 deadline.

Here’s how I described what this dirty side deal, supposedly agreed to by Democratic Party leaders, would do in a column I wrote a couple of weeks ago: “grease the wheels for the destructive Mountain Valley Pipeline to be built; severely undercut the National Environmental Policy Act; speed up the federal permitting process for proposed fossil fuel projects; undercut the power of the federal courts to make decisions that slow down approvals of fossil fuel pipelines and infrastructure; and more.”

Democratic Party leaders cannot, absolutely cannot, expect people to come out in the numbers needed on November 8 if they put Joe Manchin’s twisted priorities ahead of the priorities of those in environmental justice communities suffering from air, water and land pollution, the futures of our children and grandchildren, and the health of the planet. It would be nothing less than criminal to pass the already-compromised Inflation Reduction Act and then follow it up with an overt pro-fossil fuels bill that would have negative impacts for years to come.

Fortunately the climate justice movement and its allies have been in rapid response mobilizing mode on this issue for the last month. It has been very encouraging to see how many groups have moved quickly to take this issue up, not just climate groups but other groups. There is going to be a major demonstration this Thursday, September 8, in Washington, DC at 5 pm on Capitol Hill to #StopMVP and Manchin’s Dirty Deal. All who can do so should make every effort to come, and all of us need to keep up the pressure on House and Senate members until we win.

Yes, the needed political turning point is possible. It may, indeed, be happening as I write. Let’s make it so!


Ted Glick works with Beyond Extreme Energy and is president of 350NJ-Rockland. Past writings and other information, including about Burglar for Peace and 21st Century Revolution, two books published by him in 2020 and 2021, can be found at https://tedglick.com. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.