Scientists: US Climate Law Likely to Reduce Warming

18 August 2022

American President Joe Biden has signed into law a major bill on climate change and healthcare. The new law includes $375 billion in spending to help clean energy efforts over the next 10 years.

The spending is much smaller than first proposed. But Biden and his Democratic Party lawmakers said the law "would represent the single biggest climate investment in U.S. history, by far." They said the investment would put the country on a path to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

What's in the law?

President Joe Biden hands the pen he used to sign the climate change and health care bill to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden hands the pen he used to sign the climate change and health care bill to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

For some Americans, that means a tax credit of $4,000 to buy a used electric vehicle and up to $7,500 for a new one. The credit is good for electric vehicles that are manufactured in the U.S. or have parts made in the country. There are also tax breaks for renewable energy investments in wind and solar.

For businesses, the law includes $60 billion for a clean energy manufacturing tax credit and $30 billion for a production tax credit for wind and solar. It is designed to support the industries that help the country move away from fossil fuels.

The law also gives tax credits for nuclear power and carbon capture technology that oil companies have invested millions of dollars to develop. It would set a new fee on excess methane emissions from oil and gas drilling while permitting more exploration for oil and gas on federal lands and waters.

Western states including Arizona, Nevada and Colorado would receive $4 billion to deal with extremely dry weather conditions and conservation efforts in the Colorado River. Nearly 40 million Americans depend on the river for drinking water.

Climate scientists' study

The group Climate Action Tracker measures government climate action against the Paris climate agreement. It says the United States still is not doing enough to help the world stay within another few tenths of a degree of warming. It rates the new spending as "insufficient."

Bill Hare is the director of Climate Analytics which puts out the tracker. "This is the biggest thing to happen to the U.S. on climate policy," he said. "When you think back over the last decades, you know, not wanting to be impolite, there's a lot of talk, but not much action."

This is action, he said. Not as much as Europe, and Americans still release two times as much heat-trapping gases per person as Europeans, Hare added.

The U.S. has also released more heat-trapping gas into the air than any other nation.

Before the U.S. climate law, Climate Action Tracker calculated that the world would warm up 3 to 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. The U.S. actions, if followed by other countries, would lead to only 2 to 3 degrees Celsius of warming.

That would still fall short of the international goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. And the world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius since the mid-19th century.

Hare said officials from Chile and a few Southeast Asian countries, which he would not name, told him this summer that they were waiting for the U.S. before setting their own "policies and targets."

And China, in Hare's words, "won't say this out loud, but I think [they] will see the U.S. move as something they need to match."

Scientists at the Climate Action Tracker calculated that without any other new climate policies, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2030 will shrink to 26 to 42 percent below 2005 levels.

Other researchers and scientists agreed with the Climate Action Tracker estimates.

"The contributions from the U.S. to greenhouse gas emissions are huge," said Princeton University climate scientist Gabriel Vecchi. "So reducing that is definitely going to have a global impact."

Samantha Gross is the director of climate and energy at the Brookings Institution. She called the new law a down payment on U.S. emission reductions.

"Now that this is done, the U.S. can celebrate a little, then focus on implementation and what needs to happen next," Gross said.

I'm John Russell.

Hai Do adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting from The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

greenhouse gas - n. gas that cause the warming of the earth's atmosphere

emission - n. the act of producing or sending energy or gas

excess - adj. more than usual

insufficient - adj. not having enough of what is needed

calculate - v. to find a number by using mathematical process

decade - n. a ten-year period

match - v. to do something that is equal

contribution - n. something that is done to cause something to happen

impact - n. major or powerful influence or effect

focus - v. to direct attention to something

implementation - n. act of making something active or effective