In August, President Biden signed the biggest climate law in U.S. history–the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Incentives in this law will make electrifying and decarbonizing your household a lot cheaper. REWIRING AMERICA has created a savings calculator which shows how you can use the new climate law to electrify, shift to clean energy, and make your home more energy-efficient. (This action will take less than 5 minutes!)
Use Savings Calculator to find your clean energy incentives!USE CALCULATOR
Why this action is important: The IRA’s provisions are aimed at speeding the U.S. clean energy transition, lowering household energy costs, saving lives, and creating good-paying jobs. Starting in 2023, Americans will be eligible for many new incentives for electric appliances, energy-saving products, and more. Some incentives benefit renters, and some are available now. To use the incentives, which will save you money, lower your carbon footprint, and improve your health and comfort, you have to know about them!
Ever since August 16th, when President Biden signed the biggest climate bill in U.S. history into law, I’ve been considering what to say. So let me start with this: I’m amazed, grateful, and relieved. Why did it take me so long to post this? I was so stunned by this bill’s unlikely passage, and by how much major climate policy is contained in it, that it took me some time to digest this turn of events. I’ve spent ten years working for the passage of a national climate law of this scope and scale. I needed a moment to absorb this success, however imperfect. Then there’s the challenge of trying to summarize this bill–all 273 pages of it. How do I write something that does this moment justice?
You may know that I had given up. I wrote on this blog in January that “the odds of major climate policy being enacted by Congress in 2022 appear minuscule.” It feels like a miracle that the climate policies in this law somehow came back from the dead, like Wesley in the Princess Bride. (The climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), crafted through years of collaboration, planning, persuasion, and compromise, were declared dead earlier this summer when Senator Manchin said he would not support them.)
Much has been written about how this bill was resurrected, and the concessions that were made. The fact remains that the IRA contains the largest and most consequential measures–by far–to reduce U.S. climate pollution in our country’s history. I am grateful to every person who worked for climate action, went to meetings, lobbied, protested, contacted their elected officials; each of us contributed to the passage of this law. I believe it marks the beginning of serious climate action by the U.S. government.
I’m guessing you may not realize the size of this win for the climate. I think we in the climate movement are so inexperienced with success that we don’t know how to respond when we make real progress. I know some climate activists are disappointed or angry at the concessions that were made, and I understand. But if you’re alarmed about the climate crisis, I suggest you take a moment to savor the potentially transformative impacts of this law.
Robinson Meyer writing for The Atlantic put it this way:
“On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. It is no exaggeration to say that his signature immediately severed the history of climate change in America into two eras. Before the IRA, climate campaigners spent decades trying and failing to get a climate bill through the Senate. After it, the federal government will spend $374 billion on clean energy and climate resilience over the next 10 years. The bill is estimated to reduce the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions by about 40 percent below their all-time high, getting the country two-thirds of the way to meeting its 2030 goal under the Paris Agreement.”
I won’t try to provide all the details of the law–there are just too many. A few of the highest impact climate incentives in the law include:
–Extension of production and investment tax credits for clean electricity projects for 10 years
–Tax credits and incentives for EV purchases, including used EVs
–Tax credits for installing heat pumps, rebates for home retrofits, and financing for electrification of buildings
Other provisions include a fee for methane leakage, tax credits for carbon sequestration, and funding for environmental justice for disadvantaged communities, a green bank, climate-friendly agriculture, forestry, and conservation programs.
If you want to dig deeper into all that the IRA does, I have several suggested sources. Energy expert Dana Nuccitelli summarizes how the law’s provisions are expected to produce emissions reductions in Yale Climate Connections. The New York Times provides a good overview of the law’s provisions and impacts as well. If you prefer videos, Hank Green does a great job summarizing what the law does in this 22 minute YouTube “The Biggest Climate Bill of Your Life – But What Does it DO!?
Climate experts agree this law will matter, but the size of it’s impact will depend on how it’s enacted, and how people and businesses respond. I’m excited to say that I’ve created a page on our website and have begun gathering resources and information there on how the IRA can be leveraged to decarbonize your home, car, community, and state. The page will continue to expand for you to use and share.
Meanwhile, I hope you are taking a moment to celebrate, as I am. Next I’ll begin exploring what provisions in the law can help you contribute to a healthier, safer, more just and livable future.
I’m going to suggest you do something that it took me years to do myself: talk about the climate crisis. If it’s something you care about, if it’s on your mind, if you are taking action, if you are worried about the future or excited about some new climate initiative, bring it up. Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, one of the world’s top climate scientists, says talking about it is the most important thing you can do to fight climate change, and I agree. But it can be hard to get started, so I’m going to lay out her argument here to inspire you, and suggest that you might be surprised how people respond (in a good way).
The first time I spoke up to a stranger about my climate work, I remember exactly where I was, and that I’d been doing climate advocacy for many years by then. I’m conflict avoidant, and I think I was afraid of eliciting a negative reaction. And I’m not alone: according to the most recent polling data from the Yale Climate Communication program, global warming is important to 71% of Americans, yet 61% say they rarely or never talk about it!
It’s vital that we speak up. In her new book Saving Us, Dr. Hayhoe asks, “What do we talk about? Things we care about…(our speech) displays what we are thinking about to others, which in turn connects us to their minds and thoughts. So if we don’t talk about climate change, why would anyone around us know we care—or begin to care themselves if they don’t already? And if they don’t care, why would they act?”
Speaking about climate signals to those in our communities that climate change matters, and this has incredible ripple effects. Conversely, studies have shown that self-silencing on climate leads us to consistently underestimate how much others care about climate change, and the more we underestimate other people’s climate worries, the more hopeless we feel. Speaking up breaks this cycle, empowering us to feel we can make a difference because we are not alone.
Another way to understand the power of talking about climate change is to remember that we are social creatures, influenced in a million large and small ways by our friends, families, and communities. Each time you talk about caring and acting on climate, you are sending a signal that encourages others in your social network to care and act. For example, someone is more likely to install solar panels on their home if others in their neighborhood have already installed them. This isn’t just because the panels are visible, it’s also because neighbors talk to each other about why they went solar, the installation process, and the benefits.
How do you start, and what might you say? Dr. Hayhoe suggests simply sharing personal stories about your concerns, experiences, and actions. She says, “What do people pay attention to most? In general, we tend to favor personal stories and experiences over reams of data or facts. In fact, when you hear a story, neuroscientists have found, your brain waves start to synchronize with those of the storyteller. Your emotions follow. And that’s how change happens.”
For my part, I believe that any kind of talking is a good start. Things I’ve recently been chatting about include the electric barbecue we just got because we are working on electrifying our home, my worries about the coming fire season, and the Banking on our Future Pledge I signed to support banks that do not invest in fossil fuel expansion.
One reason we self-silence about global warming is that we are afraid of a negative reaction. In my experience, this fear is largely unfounded. As long as I avoid preaching and instead talk about my own concerns or actions, people react positively. Often, they seem to feel heartened that they are not alone in their climate worries. The first time I spoke up to someone I barely knew about my climate advocacy work, she looked back at me and said, good for you! At the time I felt liberated to finally be open. Now I look back on that moment and imagine that I may have played a small part in nudging her toward becoming more engaged in climate action. It certainly didn’t hurt.
Four big banks–Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, and Wells Fargo–are helping finance the climate crisis by supporting new oil, gas and coal projects. But these banks rely on their credit card and banking customers like you to stay in business. By signing the Banking on our Future pledge, you’re asking these banks to stop funding climate chaos by the March of 2023, or you will cut up your credit card and move your money with them. If you don’t bank there now, you pledge you won’t do so in the future.TAKE THE PLEDGE!
Why this action is so important: Last year, the International Energy Agency stated that in order to meet the Paris climate targets there can be no new investments in oil, gas, or coal, starting immediately. Yet since the climate accords were signed, Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo and Bank of America have loaned the fossil fuel industry a trillion dollars with no plans to stop. We, as their customers, have the ability to convince them to do the right thing for all our our futures.
Once you’ve signed the pledge, here are two next steps you can take to amplify the impact of this action:
First, If you do have a credit card with Chase, Citicard, Bank of America, or Wells Fargo, apply for a new credit card with a better bank now. That way, you’ll be able to switch cards by March 2023 should it be necessary. To find a good option, use Green America’s list of credit cards issued from banks that don’t lend to fossil fuel companies. Both Beneficial State Bank and Amalgamated Bank offer climate-friendly credit cards with no annual fee.
Second, share the Banking on our Future pledge with your network! Third Act has a Banking on our Future Page on their website with all the resources you need to learn about the action and share with others.TAKE THE PLEDGE!
To learn more about this action, watch a 3-minute video from THIRD ACT: Banking on Our Future
An overview of the connection between financial institutions and the climate crisis, from the New Yorker
Bank.green, a tool allowing you to check your bank’s fossil fuel financing record.
Green America’s List of fossil fuel-free credit cards.
Perhaps the most high-impact personal climate action you can take is to electrify the machines that you use in your daily life. Forty percent of U.S. electricity already comes from carbon-free sources, and this percentage is growing rapidly each year. Electric motors are more efficient than fossil fuel-fed motors, and emit no pollutants when in use. Climate experts all agree that every path to a renewable energy future and a safe climate relies on electrifying everything we can as soon as we can.
This month’s action is to take a step toward electrifying your home. There are two actions to choose from, both from Rewiring America:
ACTION ONE: Take Rewiring America’s #Electrify Everything Pledge! You provide your email and they will send you great guidance on how to electrify you home, and the latest electrification updates, which are all free.TAKE THE ELECTRIFY PLEDGE!
ACTION TWO: Find your incentives with the Inflation Reduction Act Savings Calculator! Plug in your zip code, household size and income, and a few other details and this tool shows you all the money you can get from the Inflation Reduction Act to electrify, increase energy efficiency, and decarbonize.IRA SAVINGS CALCULATOR
Whichever option you chose, be sure you also make a commitment to electrify something. From a single-burner induction cooktop to a heat pump water heater to an EV, each machine that goes electric helps speed the clean energy transition.
If you’d like to learn more about the Inflation Reduction Act and the vital role of electrification in climate action, below are links to some additional resources:
The Electric Explainer: Key programs programs in the Inflation Reduction Act and what they mean for Americans, Rewriting America Policy Hub
The Biggest Climate Bill of your Life – But What does it DO!? 22-minute video from Hank Green (it’s long but it’s the best and most entertaining explanation of the new climate bill I’ve seen!)
Most fossil fuel energy is wasted–New analysis shows how to fix this! Power Up for Climate Solutions blog, August 28, 2020
One Billion Machines that will Electrify America 12-minute video from Saul Griffith
Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) has an easy-to-use tool you can use to email your Congressional Representatives to urge them to act on climate. Unlike many other groups, CCL allows you to opt-out of getting on their mailing list, so you can take this action without increasing your email burden!
Use the link below to contact your Congressperson and Senators and urge them to pass additional bold climate policies that will open a path toward meeting our commitment under the Paris Climate Accords.TAKE ACTION
Follow the easy instructions to email your elected officials! An email will be provided which you can send as is or personalize for even greater effectiveness. The more voters they hear from, the more likely it is that Congress will pass climate policies that truly meet the moment.
Many powerful interests are fighting to weaken and derail these efforts. YOU can help by letting Congress know you want them to pass sweeping, bold action tackling the climate crisis!
Most people are aware that climate has changed around the world. Fires in Greece, California, and Siberia; flooding in Belgium, China, Germany; and record-breaking temperatures in too many places to name.
The cause of all this: added gases to the atmosphere (called “greenhouse gases”) that hold heat close to the surface. Two of the worst are carbon dioxide from burning fuels, and methane, also called natural gas.
The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on the Climate Crisis announced a “Code Red for Humanity” August 9, saying we have very little time to make changes to reduce the gases we keep adding to the air. I now always wear a red shirt to meetings, as a sign of the climate emergency we face.
We are in for a world of hurt. Global warming will worsen the problems of hunger, homelessness, education, immigration, mental illness, racial equity, social justice, and every other problem in society.
Meanwhile ad campaigns have promoted the idea that cutting fossil fuel use to reduce greenhouse gases means that we will suffer, lose jobs, hurt the economy, and be unable to live life as we wish. This is false: we will suffer much more if we do not create large-scale change. The actions below are all important, but require no change in your daily life.
What can we do? I want to suggest three actions for every one of us:
First, we must talk everywhere about the need to act on climate change. Although most people favor action, fewer than a third of Georgians had a conversation about climate last week. So please, make it a point to discuss it with someone every day. Call up a friend or relative. Post something on social media. Bring it up when you’re standing in line. Don’t be silent.
Second, we must share our concern with elected officials. Again, talk about it with these public servants. Write a letter or email. Call their office. Tweet about it, or retweet others. A state legislator once told me, “If three people in my District call me about the same issue, that becomes my issue.” When they don’t hear from us, they only hear from lobbyists.
Finally, we must join a larger group to take action together. Although we all benefit by reducing fossil fuel use in our daily lives, the actions of corporations and governments that employ millions have a larger impact on overall carbon emissions. We must all work together to influence their decision makers. I volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (cclusa.org) and can recommend it. Other climate groups include 350.org, the Sunrise Movement, Fridays for the Future, Extinction Rebellion, and Climate Reality. You can even join multiple groups!
Many many actions can help us reduce our emissions. Go to drawdownga.org for a list of 20 different ways Georgia can cut greenhouse gas emissions in half in just ten years, including building improvements and large-scale solar projects. Every step can help, but think as large as you can.
I want to close about the need for immediate action. What’s at stake is not nature, but people. Remember, this is Code Red for humanity.
A CCL member recently wrote, “If there are children in a burning building and I have the ability to save some of them, I have a responsibility to save as many as I can.”
Please join me in action.
Henry Slack is the Citizens’ Climate Lobby co-coordinator for Georgia, and a mechanical engineer. He originally wrote this for the Atlanta Friends Meeting (Quaker), then adopted it for a wider audience.
Note from Carla Wise: This essay expresses what I have been feeling and wanting to say more perfectly than I’ve been able to put into words. I’m grateful to Henry for giving me permission to re-post it here. Below are several links to climate actions and organizations to join in addition to Henry’s Georgia-specific links. Right now, the most urgent action you can take is to tell your Members of Congress to act now. You can use the easy #Call4Climate tool to do so!
Great organizations to support:
It’s good to be back! After five months off from climate advocacy following the train wreck known as 2020, our organization is coming back online. Thank you for sticking with Power Up for Climate Solutions during the break. I hope that you are feeling some sense of renewal and hope as we enter summer, as I am. Yet as the heat wave that smothered and scorched the Pacific Northwest inches eastward, I also feel a renewed sense of of the scale of the climate crisis we are facing and the challenges ahead. So with this clarity and sense of urgency, let me tell you about our organization’s next steps:
Power up for Climate Solutions will continue to focus on providing tools, information, and inspiration to help you engage in climate action. We will continue to emphasize actions that build political and societal will for enacting effective national climate policies while sometimes including personal and community actions. We remain committed to unifying around any and all fair and effective climate policies as long as they protect the most vulnerable among us.
We are bringing back our climate action invitations and our blog, with a new schedule. We will send you climate actions only when we have something really important you can do, so frequency will vary. Some months you may receive several actions, and some months you’ll receive none. This will allow us to send only actions we feel are especially impactful. The blog will come out six times a year instead of twelve. We will continue to have a social media presence on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, but with less frequent postings.
Starting this fall, we will be introducing a new initiative: Climate Circles. I’ll be offering these experimental circles to anyone interested in bringing a small group of friends, family, or colleagues together for monthly gatherings to connect, learn, and take action on climate solutions.
Climate circles are intended to be fun, flexible, and focused on learning something and taking action at each gathering. The format will be adaptable to meeting virtually or in person, and will be flexible to meet the needs of each group. This program will start small, but in time I hope to make it available to anyone who is interested.
As I write to you, it’s a much more uncertain time for climate action than it’s been in a very long time, and that’s a good thing. Anything (or nothing) is possible. We have the largest majority of Americans ever who are worried about the climate crisis and want government action. We have a president who understands the science and the urgency. We have ever-improving technological and policy tools to undertake rapid decarbonization and ways to do it that will be good for people. At the same time, we have a divided government and problems with misinformation and mistrust. We have challenging divisions within the climate community and a vocal and powerful minority fighting hard against a clean energy transition. I hope you’ll stay with us. I’m excited to get back to work. Let’s make rapid decarbonization and solving climate change the story of the next decade.
Here are two great ways to help elect climate champions! With this action, we offer two options to promote the election of climate champions to federal and state government.
Option ONE: Sign up with the Environmental Voter Project, dedicated to identifying inactive environmentalists and transforming them into consistent voters. The Environmental Voter Project provides opportunities to encourage the most climate aware people to become consistent voters in critical swing states. Their work is data-driven and has been highly impactful in recent years.
The link below will take you to their “Get Involved” page, where you can sign up to join their volunteer email list, or for a specific campaign.Environmental Voter Project
Option TWO: Help elect climate champions by making donations through Give Green. Give Green provides a strategic way to support candidates who will advance just solutions to the climate crisis by providing a platform to donate to candidates they have screened for their commitment to climate action. To take this action, click the button below, select candidates, and make a donation in any amount.Give Green
In just six weeks, we’ve seen three major climate proposals indicating that the factions of the Democratic Party are aligning on climate policy after a decade of disarray and disagreement. This policy platform on climate shows how much interest groups and politicians agree on and lays critical groundwork for enacting a transformative green recovery and a just transition to a clean energy future. It illuminates a path to finally passing big, bold climate policy solutions at the national level.
If you aren’t someone who spends time in the weeds of climate change news, you may have no idea what I’m talking about. With the pandemic raging, the economy destabilizing, and a rational racial justice/policing crisis, unification of the left on climate policy hardly made headlines. Yet if you are hoping that after the next election we will enact a green recovery and a just transition to a clean energy future, take a moment to celebrate, because such action just got a lot more likely.
Here’s a quick summary: On June 30th, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis issued its report . This included a detailed Climate Crisis Action Plan put together by House Democrats. On July 8, the Biden-Sanders unity task force on climate (chaired by John Kerry and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) issued its policy recommendations. Finally, on July 14, Joe Biden released his Build Back Better proposal on climate, a $2 trillion proposal for clean energy investments, economic stimulus, and a transition to net-zero emissions by 2050.
Here’s how journalist David Roberts summarized this in Vox: “For the first time in memory, there’s a broad alignment forming around a climate policy platform that is both ambitious enough to address the problem and politically potent enough to unite all the left’s various interest groups.”
These plans have a lot in common: they all set standards for net-zero emissions by 2050 (or sooner), they all focus on climate justice, and they all include large-scale public investment.
- Setting standards: Two-thirds of US emissions come from sectors where clean alternatives are already available–cars, electricity, and buildings. Details vary, but the plans agree on a common core of strong performance standards and incentives for these big three emitters to make rapid progress on emissions in the next ten years. Doing so can get us a long way toward meeting the 2030 emissions reduction goals the IPCC says are critical to prevent the worst, most catastrophic climate change impacts.
- Climate justice: Unions, fossil fuel workers, and frontline communities helped develop these plans. They include polices such as coal worker transition programs, equity mapping to identify vulnerable communities and send public investment there first, and incentives that favor union workers for clean energy jobs.
- Large public investment: Support for green industries, manufacturing, research, and job creation is in these proposals, as are a number of ideas for combining recovery from the COVID-10 economic crisis with transformative climate solutions.
Pre-pandemic, when I used to give in-person talks about climate solutions, I sometimes ended with this quote attributed to Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” This summer, the left’s new unity on climate policy makes transformative climate progress seep a little less impossible.
If you are interested in more details about these plans, see links below.
Carlie Clarcq, “Biden’s clean energy plan proposes economic recovery through green investments,” Climate Change, July 23, 2020.
David Roberts, “At last, a climate policy platform that can unite the left,” Vox, July 9, 2020.