At one point in Al Gore’s seminal 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth”, the former vice president lamented that his tobacco-farming parents didn’t stop picking tobacco until their beloved daughter Nancy’s in Tennessee Lung cancer did not lead to death.
Gore says in the film, “It’s just human nature to take the time to connect the dots.” “But … there may be a day of calculation when you wish you had connected the dots more quickly.”
All these years later, many worried Americans hope that President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have perfectly connected the points – politically and morally – on climate change. As Gore suggests in the film, global warming is our planet’s own late-stage disease. Unless we apply shock treatment now, terminal results are guaranteed.
And yet Biden and Schumer still haven’t figured out a way to unlock the $550 billion in climate “medicine” sitting at the negotiating table in the US Senate. The spending, part of a potential budget reconciliation deal, will replace our nation with massive tax credits for wind and solar power, money to decarbonize transportation, and money for a civilian climate corps, among other investments.
God knows getting 50 votes in the US Senate for anything is as tough as battling advanced cancer—painful, nauseating, requiring every ounce of strength. But as tortured as the budget reconciliation process over the past year—Biden’s Build Back Better agenda stretched back, then blocked outright, and now under discussion in a new form—is one thing. Remains stable: Everyone in the Senate Democratic caucus has solidly supported $550 billion in climate funding. This includes West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kirsten Cinemas.
But is the White House all in? There is some speculation in D.C. that top climate advisers Gina McCarthy and John Kerry have been asked to publicly push less for bold climate action. The president’s closest aides are said to be concerned that a consolidation bill — absent child tax credits and other liberal policy favorites — in November will be a political obligation, even if it includes features of climate and prescription drugs. Voters may blame Biden for not passing the full package. That argument seems untenable. More likely, and understandably, the White House doesn’t rely on Munchkin and cinema to negotiate in good faith this summer, so why try again?
But that dreadful, inconvenient truth won’t go away: The patient is dying. The world, as we know it, is disappearing. More than 7.1 million acres of forest burned in 2021 in the United States alone. Hundred degree days were recorded in the Arctic Circle in 2020. And top UN-affiliated scientists say, on policy reforms, “delay is death.”
So here’s the bottom line for Biden, Schumer, and the rest of the Democrats: You have no right to give up. Delay, for any reason, is unacceptable. Democrats could lose one or both houses of Congress in November. And it could take 10 years before another big vote on climate is possible.
Clearly, Biden and Schumer want Manchin to put on paper what he wants in a budget reconciliation bill, including the exact climate spending. If that doesn’t happen by the end of June, Schumer should offer his deal and negotiate from there. If Manchin wasn’t really ready to vote on climate spending, he probably would have given it a tough few months ago, as he did with the Child Tax Credit.
There could be an investment of $550 billion. But only if the White House remained in the fight.
This is what the planet needs right now. Those are the points Al Gore is talking about in “An Inconvenient Truth.” And today, right now, is the day of reckoning.
Mike Tidwell is the executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. ©2022 Baltimore Sun. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.