Are Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin a model for climate legislation?
Just when all seemed lost, Senators Schumer and Manchin surprised us with a climate bill that might just make it through the Senate. Everyone, myself included, thought the bill was relegated the the blockhole of policy land and would never see the light of a vote. Schumer and Manchin negotiated behind closed doors, and developed an amended bill that has some chance of being passed (but far from guaranteed.)
To get this done, Schumer made what many consider to be a dangerous side deal with Manchin to support a natural gas pipeline that’s faced (scientifically-backed) opposition for years. Still, without Manchin’s support of this bill, there was no chance of moving forward on any climate legislation before the mid-terms.
I’m still reading through the bill and all the fine print so I’m not yet convinced of its merit, but I do know this: if we walk away from our adversaries at the table (and even though they’re in the same party, Schumer and Manchin are very much adversaries), the planet is certainly doomed, as are we and all the species with whom we share it. I’m as unhappy about this reality as anyone. It’s disheartening to see how many short-sighted politicians we have in this country who don’t care at all about the health of the planet.
Like it or not, we have to negotiate with them to get anything done. That often means settling for less than what’s best for the planet in order to get some protections in place. From what I know so far, even this historic climate bill is more of a delay tactic that’s buying us more time than it is truly what we need to do to significantly curb and (dare we hope) reverse climate change. But it’s a start and it’s better than nothing. Again, I’m not saying that I like or even agree with this let’s-take-what-we-can-get mentality. It’s pathetic that we have to beg politicians to not burn down our collective home so that younger generations have a future they can look forward to. But that is the reality. We are begging with the hope that we can make some progress.
I’m thinking a lot about the negotiations that will be necessary for global climate action—with energy companies, with governments like Russia and Saudi Arabia, and with manufacturers. These are going to be painful and contentious conversations and they need to happen with cool heads and collaborators prevailing. I never thought I’d see Manchin support any climate legislation. I never thought I’d see Schumer and Manchin agree on a bill, much less come together to (possibly) get something done.
This latest turn in the debate has given me a speck of hope that maybe, just maybe, we might be able to collaborate enough to avoid the worst possible outcomes of our rapidly changing natural world. The questions remain: who’s going to come to the table, who’s going to stay at the table until some progress is made, and how much can we truly afford to give and take in order for the resulting policy to be of any value for the planet?