Midterm elections 2022 and climate change: what you need to know


With half With registered voters saying climate change is one of the most important issues in the upcoming midterm elections, could the November 8 results mean changes for US policy on global warming?

A significant change in the makeup of Congress would primarily involve delays rather than the reversal of major legislation. But time is running out as scientists continue to prevent that without immediate and deep cuts in emissions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will soon be be “out of reach”.

Democrats have several major climate change initiatives in place nationally that Republicans would like to roll back. To do that, they’ll need a landslide victory – and even then, hitting the undo button will be a challenge.

Five major climate initiatives are in play as voters decide who controls the House and Senate, as well as gubernatorial races and ballot initiatives across the country.

Here’s a look at what the midterms mean for the climate:

Cancellation of the Inflation Reduction Act is still possible

Just 85 days after the most significant climate legislation ever passed in the United States, the midterm election result is unlikely to erase key provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act unless Republicans get a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.

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The sweeping legislation includes record spending on clean energy initiatives. It also has measures to reduce prescription drug prices and to ensure that large corporations pay income taxes.

The sweeping law was approved by the Senate on August 7 in a party vote. Dismantling it would require passing a new law to repeal or replace it, a nearly impossible task given current political realities.

To overcome a veto by President Joe Biden, Republicans would need to secure a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, which is considered unlikely.

The other truth in politics is that once a major bill such as the IRA is passed, the longer it is in force, the less likely it is to be overturned.

“It’s hard to do great things and it’s hard to undo great things,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters.

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Critical water rights decisions hang in the balance amid mega-drought

Two gubernatorial races could affect the 40 million Americans who get their water under the centennial Colorado River Compact.

A 22-year mega-drought has pushed the mighty Colorado River far beyond its limits. Scientists estimate that about 40% of drought is attributable to human-caused climate trends.

To deal with the extreme water shortage, the Department of the Interior took an unprecedented step earlier this year, requiring the governors of the seven states that get water from the river to develop a contingency plan. to drastically reduce usage.

The inside was clear: if the governors of Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and California did not submit a proposal, the agency’s Bureau of Reclamation would do it for them.

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There was no deal and things are now on hold as every state except Utah has gubernatorial races on Nov. 8.

The way things are unfolding in two of those states, Arizona and Nevada, could delay a state-run plan, forcing the Department of the Interior to intervene.

In both states, Republicans at unorthodox waterways are probing well and could end up making the decisions.

In Arizona, Republican candidate Lake Kari wants to prioritize finding additional water supplies over conservation. His main proposals to deal with the state’s water shortages are the construction of a pipeline to bring water from the Missouri and Mississippi rivers or the construction of seawater desalination plants.

But desalination would dramatically increase costs, and a pipeline is probably politically unfeasible.

Conservation really is the only option, said former Colorado River District chief executive Eric Kuhn.

“The water just isn’t there,” he said.

In Nevada, Republican candidate and political firebrand Joe Lombardo says California is getting too much water under current rules and the entire Colorado River Compact should be renegotiated.

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It seems unlikely. The Compact was ratified in 1922. To create a new one would require the approval of Congress, state legislatures and governors.

Whatever humans do is ultimately decided by Mother Nature, said Kuhn, co-author of “Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River.” “You cannot provide more water than you have.”

Plan to force companies to disclose climate data not finalized

In the financial world, a historic rule on climate change which could significantly alter what investors are told about corporate risk is expected to be finalized next year. A change in the makeup of Congress might put up roadblocks, but it might not derail it.

The Securities and Exchange Commission proposed the rule in March. This would require public companies to disclose the risks they face from global warming as well as their greenhouse gas emissions. The rule does not require companies to change what they do, only to let potential investors know.

Already at least 16 Republican state attorneys general have disputed the proposed rule and it is expected that several lawsuits will be filed against it.

Others believe it will outlast the opposition.

“This rule was designed to survive legal challenges,” said Elizabeth Small, chief policy officer of CDP, a nonprofit that operates a voluntary climate disclosure system for businesses.

Two states propose historic climate initiatives

While several states and many counties and cities have various climate initiatives, two stand out for the size and economic importance of the states considering them.

In California, Proposal 30 raise taxes by 1.75% on people earning more than $2 million. The resulting money – up to $5 billion a year per condition estimates — would go to building electric and hydrogen vehicle charging stations and wildfire suppression and prevention programs.

If California were a country, it would have the fifth largest economy in the world, so what the state does matters. If passed, the initiative could spur the adoption of zero-carbon vehicles and the building of infrastructure to support them, both electric and hydrogen, not just in California but across the United States.

Across the country, in New York State, Proposal 1 would allow the state to issue $4.2 billion in bonds for environmental, natural resource, water infrastructure and climate change mitigation projects.

The Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act would pay for environmental improvements statewide, including $1.5 billion for climate change mitigation, $1.1 billion for restoration and flood risk reduction, $650 million for open space conservation, and $650 million for water. quality of resilience infrastructure.

If the historically significant measure results in jobs and supporters of a cleaner, healthier environment, it could encourage other states to take similar action.

Agriculture at the center of another bigger fight to come

How these five climate issues play out could set the stage for an even bigger fight that should start in earnest after the mid-games.

Every five years since 1933, Congress has passed a law that affects almost every aspect of American agricultural and nutritional policy: the Farm Bill. Formally known as the Agriculture Improvement Act, in 2018 it cost $428 billion and is a huge driver of what Americans grow and eat.

Agriculture represents 11% total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Conservation and sustainability are expected to be big issues as details of the next farm bill are unveiled.

“This could be a huge opportunity to advance climate solutions,” Sittenfeld said. “There is no overestimating the potential of the agricultural bill, because we have very ambitious targets for reducing climate emissions.”


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