By the time superintendent David Smith decided to close Joshua Tree national park on 7 January 2019, the list of problems was already long. Tire tracks wove through the wilderness mapping a path of destruction where rare plants had been crushed and trees toppled. Charred remains of illegal campfires dotted the desert, and historic cultural artifacts had been plundered. Trash piles were growing, vault toilets were overflowing and park security workers were being pushed to their limits.It was week three in what would become the longest shutdown of the US government, and the famed California park was feeling the consequences of operating without key staff, services and resources.To protect the park and its workers, it would have to close, Smith thought.But the Trump administration, which demanded national parks remain accessible throughout the shutdown, wasn’t willing to change course. In a controversial move, David Bernhardt, who had only recently been appointed acting secretary of the interior, called Smith and ordered him to keep the gates open.By the end of the 35-day shutdown, irreversible damage had been inflicted on Joshua Tree’s ecosystems, its wild, remote landscapes thrust into the political turmoil unfolding thousands of miles away.Bernhardt’s decision and its aftermath are chronicled in hundreds of pages of emails between park officials, which the Guardian obtained through a records request. The correspondence sheds light on the pressure national parks faced during the shutdown, as well as how political considerations influenced decisions about their maintenance and protection.Another possible government shutdown looms, raising fresh questions about whether the National Park Service (NPS), the federal agency that oversees the parks, will follow the precedent set by the previous administration.“The situation right now is deeply concerning on many levels, including the potential threat to resources and visitors,” said John Garder, the senior director of budget and appropriations at the National Parks Conservation Association, a non-profit that advocates for park preservation. “It is difficult for the parks service to do their jobs when Congress doesn’t give them the resources they need.”‘Parks are struggling’There have long been tensions over the interpretation of the NPS mission, with an uneasy balance of conservation and recreation. As politicians switch priorities, priorities in the parks can switch with them, and at the end of 2018 the NPS found itself in the crosshairs.On 21 December that year, Mick Mulvaney, who headed the office of management and budget for the Trump administration, announced the shutdown in a memorandum to agency leaders across the country, advising them that all talking points should reflect that the “national parks will remain as accessible as possible”. Communications staff for NPS’s Pacific west regional office followed up with instructions: “Keep the message positive, avoid saying limited access.”Regional NPS leaders meanwhile told superintendents in close-of-day emails they were aware of the potential for damage to delicate ecosystems and park infrastructure if parks stayed open without the necessary resources, and possible danger to largely unsupervised visitors. The timing of the shutdown, which left employees furloughed or working without pay during the busy holiday season, only added to the challenges, Sarah Creachbaum, the acting deputy regional director, wrote in an email on 23 December.“If the shutdown does persist for more than a few days it will be increasingly important to keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of stress among your teams,” she said. “Uncertainty and stress are legitimate health and safety issues that can affect everyone.”There would be weeks to go.As the shutdown progressed, and the situation at some national parks turned increasingly dire, the NPS leaders told park superintendents they would support decisions to shut parks down, especially in situations where staff and visitors could not be kept safe.“We’ve heard from many parks across the region that they are struggling more and more with trash accumulation, human waste, traffic congestion, fatigued employees etc,” wrote Stephanie Burkhart, the associate regional director of the Pacific west region on 28 December. “As the shutdown continues, these challenges will get harder. So please continue to evaluate your capacity and resources, rotate staff to provide rest and implement area closures as needed.”Two days later, Smith, the Joshua Tree superintendent, reached out to Creachbaum, Burkhart and communications staff to say he had decided to close campgrounds and a day-use area at the park after the start of the new year. The holidays were peak visiting times for the California site. With just nine working staff members, a disaster seemed imminent, he warned. Already, he reported, two search-and-rescue operations had been needed the week before, both requiring helicopters because the park hadn’t been able to adequately respond.Staff had told him that visitors were resisting direction, telling law enforcement rangers they could do whatever they wanted during the shutdown. Staff members were increasingly concerned about their own safety, especially as incidents of intoxication and physical assaults in the park began to rise.The interior department intervenesStaff who worked at Joshua Tree national park at the time said the experience was among the most difficult in their careers. “What I witnessed at the park was chaos and destruction,” said one park employee who, like others quoted in this story, asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution for speaking out.From the start of the shutdown, the majority of the park staff had been opposed to keeping Joshua Tree open, they said, describing long days of work and feeling despondent as some visitors abused their unfettered access.Another employee said decision-makers seemed out of touch with the reality on the ground: “In the lower rungs nothing made sense to us – you are just executing these orders that make no sense for the park, no sense for the visitor, and no sense for the employees.”National parks are required to be ready for events like a shutdown with a contingency plan. But the controversial directions from the Trump administration forced the agency and the parks to make in-the-moment adjustments.Four days before Smith informed NPS leaders of his intention to fully close Joshua Tree, the Pacific west regional NPS team were maintaining in staff emails that they would support park closures for heath and hygiene reasons, to protect visitor safety or due to staff fatigue. “As we come to the end of our second week of the closure, and with no end in sight, it is clear that keeping all park areas accessible is not feasible,” Creachbaum wrote to superintendents on 3 January. “Now is the time to determine if the NPS contingency plan triggers for closures apply to your circumstances.”skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionBut on 5 January, Bernhardt intervened, issuing a memorandum to the deputy director of the NPS instructing him to modify the contingency plan so parks would rely on Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act funds to stay open. FLREA funds, which come from park fees, are designated by law to be used to improve the parks, including hacking away at a large maintenance backlog, estimated at roughly $12bn across all parks at the time.Bernhardt ordered that they be used for maintaining operations “until such funds have reached zero balance”.The Government Accountability Office would later deem Bernhardt’s move to be a violation of the law. In a scathing report issued in 2019, the GAO concluded that Bernhardt’s decree had undermined congressional power of the purse and sidestepped laws outlining shutdown procedures. The interior department maintains Bernhardt’s decision was legal, and in 2020 the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) laid out a legal argument supporting Bernhardt and his decision.“The decision to utilize FLREA funds in 2019 was entirely lawful,” Cole Rojewski, a lawyer speaking on behalf of Bernhardt, said, pointing to the OMB analysis. He added that if the action had been initiated from the beginning of the shutdown, the destruction of the park and dangers posed to both staff and visitors could have been avoided “while also allowing for continued public access and ensuring dedicated employees were paid throughout the duration of the shutdown”.Raúl Grijalva, a congressman from Arizona, disagreed. As chair of the committee on natural resources in 2019, he wrote to Bernhardt admonishing him for the decision to use FLREA funds and questioned whether he had complied with the law outlining their use. Casting the former secretary’s act as a way to help “obfuscate the real costs of the shutdown”, Grijalva said the Department of the Interior’s actions “sidestepped Congress and used these park funds for political purposes”.A call from the Trump administrationBy 6 January, superintendents across the system were rushing to carve out new plans to bring back furloughed staff using FLREA funds. Smith, meanwhile, still tried to quickly close Joshua Tree. On 7 January he requested a temporary closure from regional park leaders, highlighting the “considerable damage to park resources”. Creachbaum, the deputy regional director, responded: “I am so sorry about the damage to your park. It’s heartbreaking. We support the closure.” It would be her last email serving in the leadership role, and she stepped down soon after. A press release was drafted from Joshua Tree national park announcing a plan to close.But the very next day, Smith wrote to Creachbaum’s successor, Katariina Tuovinen, alerting her that he’d been contacted by the director of the NPS, who had advised him Bernhardt would call him later that day. “The Secretary will be calling to order that the park stays open and that we use FLREA funds to do it,” Smith wrote in an email on 8 January.Communications officials at the national office scrambled to reframe the eyebrow-raising shift, issuing a new press release that cast the decision more favorably. “National Park Service officials have been able to avert a temporary closure of Joshua Tree National Park,” the release read, highlighting how revenue generated by recreation fees would be used to support the reopened campgrounds and entrance stations.At the time, the NPS didn’t return calls and emails from the Guardian requesting comment on how this decision had been made. (The emails show they did connect with some reporters, asking the Los Angeles Times to make revisions to their reporting.)A cautionary tale – or a precedent?Amid a growing likelihood the US government is headed for another shutdown on 1 October, it’s unclear how the NPS is planning to respond.In August, agencies across the federal government were expected to submit contingency plans. But the NPS has yet to confirm whether a new plan has been drafted and whether national parks will again be expected to remain accessible during the funding stalemate.Repeated requests for information and comment went unanswered from both the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.The park service operating budget is also under threat from budget cuts. As record numbers of visitors continue to flood in, the depletion of funds for maintenance and improvement could lead to more disastrous results, Garder argued. The maintenance backlog has only ballooned in recent years, growing from $11.6bn during the last shutdown to more than $22bn in 2022.Jonathan Jarvis, a retired NPS director who served under the Obama administration and oversaw a 2013 shutdown, agrees. “When I was director, there was no question – you shut ’em down,” he said.Jarvis, who spent four decades in the park service, said he hopes for a future where public lands aren’t put at risk by shifts in political whim, and advocates for the agency to be removed from the Department of the Interior.Ultimately, he said, the future of US national parks will be linked to funding. “The good news is that in the US the parks are highly supported by the American people,” he said. “But they expect them to be taken care of.” More
Donald Trump has launched a lengthy and largely baseless attack on wind turbines for causing large numbers of whales to die, claiming that “windmills” are making the cetaceans “crazy” and “a little batty”.Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, used a rally in South Carolina to assert that while there was only a small chance of killing a whale by hitting it with a boat, “their windmills are causing whales to die in numbers never seen before. No one does anything about that.”“They are washing up ashore,” said Trump, the twice-impeached former US president and reality TV host who is facing multiple criminal indictments. “You wouldn’t see that once a year – now they are coming up on a weekly basis. The windmills are driving them crazy. They are driving the whales, I think, a little batty.”Trump has a history of making false or exaggerated claims about renewable energy, previously asserting that the noise from wind turbines can cause cancer, and that the structures “kill all the birds”. In that case, experts say there is no proven link to ill health from wind turbines, and that there are far greater causes of avian deaths, such as cats or fossil fuel infrastructure. There is also little to support Trump’s foray into whale science.“He displays an astonishing lack of knowledge of whales and whale strandings,” said Andrew Read, a whale researcher and commissioner of the Marine Mammal Commission, of Trump. “There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that wind turbines, or surveying for wind turbines, is causing any whale deaths at all.”The US has been slow, compared with other countries, to develop offshore wind farms but several projects are now under way off the east coast, enthusiastically backed by Joe Biden as a way to boost clean energy supply and combat the climate crisis.Critics of this push, including some environmentalists, have warned that whales are being imperiled by work to install these new offshore turbines, but scientists have largely dismissed these claims. “At this point, there is no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could cause mortality of whales,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has noted.Read said that there are some “broad concerns” about the overall industrialization of the oceans, but that the main threats to whales come from their being hit by boats and becoming entangled in fishing gear, and from warming oceans due to the climate change.“The population of humpback whales, in particular, is recovering from being hunted and they are coming closer to the coast to feed on prey, which means they are being hit as they come into shipping lanes, or being caught up in nets,” said Read.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionA spate of dead whales that washed up along New York and New Jersey’s coasts earlier this year has fueled opposition to wind turbines, however, with Republicans in New Jersey attempting to halt construction of turbines.This opposition has been embraced not only as another culture war battle but also as a way to help businesses keen to stymie clean energy, with several rightwing groups funded by fossil fuel interests linked to seemingly organic community protests against wind farms.“It’s particularly sad to see well-meaning people who care about whales being persuaded that wind turbines are a risk to them,” said Read. “They are being manipulated by fossil fuel interests who see wind energy as a threat to those interests.” More
President Joe Biden will use his executive authority to create a New Deal-style American Climate Corps that will serve as a major green jobs training program.In an announcement on Wednesday, the White House said the program would employ about 20,000 young adults who will build trails, plant trees, help install solar panels and do other work to boost conservation and help prevent catastrophic wildfires.Biden had previously been thwarted by Congress on creating a climate corps. The climate corps had been proposed in early versions of the sweeping climate law approved last year but was jettisoned amid strong opposition from Republicans and concerns about cost.Democrats and environmental advocacy groups never gave up on the plan and pushed Biden in recent weeks to issue an executive order authorizing what the White House now calls the American Climate Corps. The program is modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps, created in the 1930s by the Democratic president Franklin D Roosevelt as part of the New Deal.“This summer, our country saw heat waves, wildfires and floods that destroyed communities, uprooted families and claimed hundreds of lives,” the Sunrise Movement and other organizations wrote on Monday in a letter to Biden’s White House.“While previous executive orders and legislation under your administration demonstrate tremendous progress toward meeting our Paris climate goals and your campaign promises, this summer has made clear that we must be as ambitious as possible in tackling the great crisis of our time,” the groups wrote.More than 50 Democratic lawmakers, including the Massachusetts senator Ed Markey and the New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also encouraged Biden to create a climate corps, saying in a separate letter on Monday that “the climate crisis demands a whole-of-government response at an unprecedented scale”.The lawmakers cited deadly heatwaves in the south-west and across the nation, as well as dangerous floods in New England and devastating wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui, among recent examples of climate-related disasters.A federal climate corps would “prepare a whole generation of workers for good-paying union jobs in the clean economy” while helping to “fight climate change, build community resilience and support environmental justice”, the lawmakers wrote.The White House declined to say how much the program will cost or how it will be paid for, but Democrats proposed $10bn for the climate corps in the climate bill before the provision was removed.Republicans have largely dismissed the climate corps as a do-gooder proposal that would waste money and could even take jobs away from other workers displaced by the Covid-19 pandemic.“We don’t need another FDR program, and the idea that this is going to help land management is a false idea as well,” the Arkansas representative Bruce Westerman, chairman of the House natural resources committee, said in 2021.Congressman Joe Neguse, a Colorado Democrat who has co-sponsored a climate corps bill, said it was important to train the next generation of federal land managers, park rangers and other stewards of our natural resources. Neguse and other Democrats have said the program should pay “a living wage” while offering healthcare coverage and support for childcare, housing, transportation and education.A key distinction between the original Civilian Conservation Corps and the new climate contingent is that, unlike the in 1930s, the US economy is not in an economic depression. The US unemployment rate was 3.8% in August, low by historical measures.The new corps is also likely to be far more diverse than the largely white and male force created 90 years ago.The White House climate adviser, Ali Zaidi, said the administration would work with at least six federal agencies to create the climate corps and would pair with at least 10 states. California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan and Washington have already begun similar programs, while five more are launching their own climate corps, Zaidi said: Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah.The initiative will provide job training and service opportunities to work on a wide range of projects that tackle the climate crisis, including restoring coastal wetlands to protect communities from storm surges and flooding; deploying clean energy projects such as wind and solar power; managing forests to improve health and prevent catastrophic wildfires; and implementing energy efficient solutions to cut energy bills for consumers, the White House said. More
One day after the largest climate march since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of climate activists blockaded the Federal Reserve Bank in New York to call for an end to funding for coal, oil and gas, with police making scores of arrests.“Fossil fuel companies … wouldn’t be able to operate without money, and that money is coming primarily from Wall Street,” Alicé Nascimento, environmental campaigns director at New York Communities for Change, said hours before she was arrested.The action came as world leaders began arriving in New York for the United National general assembly (UNGA) gathering and followed Sunday’s 75,000-person March to End Fossil Fuels, which focused on pushing Biden to urgently phase out fossil fuels. Monday’s civil disobedience had a different but compatible goal, said Renata Pumarol, an organizer with the campaign group Climate Defenders.“Today we want to make sure people know banks, big banks, are responsible for climate change, too,” she said. “And while marches are important, we think civil disobedience is, too, because it shows we’re willing to do whatever it takes to end fossil fuels, including putting ourselves on the line.”Monday’s action was organized by a coalition of local organizations including New York Communities for Change and Extinction Rebellion NYC, alongside national groups such as Climate Organizing Hub and 350.org. Demonstrators first gathered in New York’s Zuccotti Park, in the financial district in lower Manhattan, which is partially owned by fossil fuel investor Goldman Sachs.The small concrete urban space was the base for the original Occupy Wall Street protests 12 years ago.On Monday, demonstrators then marched in the rain to the nearby New York Federal Reserve building, the largest of the network of 12 federal banks dotted around the country that make up the central bank of the United States.Protesters blockaded multiple entrances into the bank while singing, beating drums and holding up signs. Over 100 people were arrested, according to the New York City Office of the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information, with organizers estimating that roughly 150 arrests were made.“If you arrest one of us, one hundred more will come,” activists chanted.The protesters called attention to both public and private fossil fuel financing. Globally, government subsidies for coal, oil and gas reached a record high of $13m per minute in 2022 last year – equivalent to 7% of global GDP and almost double what the world spends on education – according to the International Monetary Fund.Last year, the US also ranked 16th among the G20 countries on a scorecard by the independent economic research group Green Central Banking, which the researchers say indicates US financial regulators are falling behind their international peers on climate risk mitigation.Meanwhile, since the signing of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, major private banks have provided some $3.2tn to the fossil fuel industry to expand operations, far outstripping the amount that global north governments have collectively spent on international climate finance, an analysis from ActionAid, the Washington DC-based non-profit, found this month. Another recent analysis from the Sierra Club environmental group found that major global banks have announced climate pledges but nonetheless financed coal energy across the US.Monday’s action came after a slew of global protests last week, some of which targeted financial institutions. In New York, dozens rallied outside of the headquarters for asset manager BlackRock and Citibank on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, to call attention to both firms’ investments in fossil fuels. And on Friday, protesters targeted the Museum of Modern Art over its relationship to fossil fuel investor KKR.Another protest is planned for Tuesday at New York City’s Bank of America offices, with additional actions throughout the week as the United Nations hosts its Climate Ambition Summit as part of the UNGA. More
From 1h agoThe crowd cried out in cheers for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who thanked them for showing up and highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis.“This issue is the issue, one of the most important issues of our time,” she said, adding: “We must be too big and too radical to ignore.”Climate action requires a democratic restructuring of the economy, she said.“What we’re not gonna do is go from oil barons to solar barons,” she told the crowd.The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit global network comprising 3.5 million climate activists, was one of the many organizations present at the march in New York City today.
We are mobilizing around the summit to leverage national and international pressure to demand leaders change course.
This is a critical moment for mass mobilization on fossil fuels that could ignite bigger and bolder climate action.
Here is a tweet by Oil Change International of the various climate change marches that were staged around the world this week, including today’s rally in New York City.
This is a big, beautiful climate movement & we’re calling on world leaders to #EndFossilFuels NOW. No more talk, we need action!
Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, announced that she is working on a musical about the climate crisis.She and three cast members previewed a song from the show called Panic. “We want you to panic / We want you to act / You stole our future / And we want it, we want it back.”“Don’t let the cynics win. The cynics want us to think that this isn’t worth it. The cynics want us to believe that we can’t win. The cynics want us to believe that organizing doesn’t matter, that our political system doesn’t matter, that our economy doesn’t matter,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told a crowd of cheering protestors.“We’re here to say that we organize out of hope, we organize out of commitment, we organize out of love, we organize out of the beauty of our future. We will not give up! We will not let go! We will not allow cynicism to to prevail! We will not allow our vision of a collaborative economy, of dignity for working people, of honoring the Black, brown, Indigenous, white working class! We will not give up and that is what we are here to do today!” she added.“The United States continues to be approving record number of fossil fuel leases and we must send a message, right here today – that has got to end!”Earlier this month, AOC spoke to the Guardian and said that “there’s a very real danger here,” in reference to the presidential 2024 elections and the climate crisis.The crowd cried out in cheers for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who thanked them for showing up and highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis.“This issue is the issue, one of the most important issues of our time,” she said, adding: “We must be too big and too radical to ignore.”Climate action requires a democratic restructuring of the economy, she said.“What we’re not gonna do is go from oil barons to solar barons,” she told the crowd.Here are more images coming through the newswires from the march:World leaders have ‘forgotten’ responsibility to Mother EarthVeteran Indigenous organizer Tom Goldtooth, who is executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, attended the march. “I’m here at the request of spiritual authorities within our Indigenous network,” he said.“They said that this United Nations secretary general’s summit on climate ambition has no spiritual soul to it – that the world leaders have forgotten what the responsibility is to understand the sacredness of Mother Earth.”He decried world leaders’ focus on technological solutions like geoengineering, as well as carbon offset markets, which studies show often do not result in lowered emissions.“We’re here to renew not only our relationship but humanity’s relationship to building sustainable communities based upon regenerative economy, living economy, not a fossil fuel economy,” he said.“The fight for the planet is not a personal issue, it’s a collective issue,” said Grant Miner, a graduate student representing the labor contingent with the Student Workers of Columbia University. “The economy that we have now is structured around killing the planet for profit.”“We’re asking Biden to divest fossil fuels,” said Sincere Cheong, who marched alongside thousands of other people. “The world is being destroyed and if we don’t cut back right now we won’t be able to limit the global warming to 1.5 degrees.”Tens of thousands of people in New York City have kicked off a week of demonstrations seeking to end the use of coal, oil and natural gas blamed for climate change.“This is an incredible moment,” said Jean Su of Center for Biological Diversity, who helped organize the mobilization.
Tens of thousands of people are marching in the streets of New York because they want climate action, and they understand Biden’s expansion of fossil fuels is squandering our last chance to avoid climate catastrophe.
Su said the action was the largest climate protest in the US since the start of the pandemic, with organizers estimating around 75,000 protestors taking to the streets in New York City.She added:
This also shows the tremendous grit and fight of the people, especially youth and communities living at the frontlines of fossil fuel violence, to fight back and demand change for the future they have every right to lead.
In addition to celebrities and lawmakers, kids from across the country as well as elderly people showed up at the protests, waving climate signs and chanting alongside event organizers.New York’s Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who previously championed the Green New Deal alongside Senator Bernie Sanders, is also expected to address the crowd later this afternoon.Sunday’s demonstration comes ahead of the the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit, which the UN secretary general, António Guterres, says will focus on on bold new climate pledges.In its citations for its climate journalists of the year, Covering Climate Now said:
Manka Behl of the Times of India was praised by judges for reports “from the frontlines of the crisis in one of the world’s most climate-important countries” and for her interviews with leaders.
Damian Carrington of the Guardian was credited for science-based reporting that “explains that politics and corporate power, not a lack of green technologies, are what block climate progress”, and cited for leading a reporting team on investigating “carbon bombs” and super-emitting methane leaks.
Amy Westervelt was described as a prolific, multiplatform reporter for Critical Frequency whose work exposes how fossil fuel companies continue to mislead the public and policymakers alike.
“Every news outlet on earth can learn from the engaged, hard-hitting journalism that Manka, Damian and Amy bring to the climate story,” said Mark Hertsgaard, the executive director of Covering Climate Now. “It’s reporting like this that arms the public with the power that knowledge gives.”The awards also recognized six Special Honors winners for “rigorous investigative reports, eye-opening exposes of climate injustice, and much-needed analyses of climate solutions”:Covering Climate Now, the global journalism collaboration, is announcing its media awards this week at a time when audiences need to know how and why “the planet is on fire” and what can be done, judges said.CCN’s three climate journalists of the year for 2023 are Damian Carrington of the Guardian, Manka Behl of the Times of India and Amy Westervelt, the founder of the Critical Frequency podcast network.Naomi Klein, the international bestselling author, won in the commentary category, while Ishan Kukreti of the Indian non-profit Scroll.in won for long-form writing.Covering Climate Now is a global collaboration involving some 600 news outlets with a reach of more than 2 billion people, and its media awards program was launched three years ago to spread standards of excellence in climate journalism.This year’s winners were selected from a list of finalists from more than 1,100 entries from 29 countries, and chosen by more than 100 journalists.Children showed up in droves for the march to end fossil fuels.“We’re here today because our planet deserves a future,” Ida, 12, said.Gus, a six-year-old, travelled from Boston for the march with his mother, Laura. “We’re here to end fossil fuels … so we can stop climate change,” he said.Aviva, a seven-year-old Brooklynite who attended the march with her mom and sister, spoke into the megaphone. “Hey hey, ho,” she shouted, as the crowd responded: “Fossil fuels have got to go!”As the climate rally in New York City continues, climate activists in Germany sprayed orange paint on to Berlin’s popular Brandenburg Gate on Sunday in attempts to call on the German government to stop using fossil fuels.“The protest makes it clear: it is time for a political change,” the climate activist group the Last Generation said in a statement, the Associated Press reports.“Away from fossil fuels – towards fairness,” it added.The Associated Press reports that police have blocked the area around the historic gate and confirmed that they have detained 14 activists that are affiliated with the Last Generation.Mentions of gas stoves are emerging as a theme among the many signs protesters are holding up at the march to end fossil fuels.This April, New York became the first US state to ban gas stoves in new residential building construction as research emerged about its dangers for human health.At the march, the Rev Lennox Yearwood, head of the Hip Hop Caucus, likened today’s climate movement to the US fight for racial justice.“We’re at our lunch counter moment for the 21st century,” he said.A native of Louisiana, he said he was excited to see demonstrators support environmental justice activists’ fight to end petrochemical buildout in the south-west US.“We need to end fossil fuels in all forms,” he said.Protesters chanted: “We are unstoppable, another world is possible.”Others sang Leonard Cohen’s Anthem: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”Here is video by the Guardian’s visual reporter Aliya Uteuova on the fossil fuels march in New York City this afternoon.The activists will be marching to the United Nations ahead of the UN Climate Ambition Summit that is set to take place in a few days.Veteran environmental activist Bill McKibben travelled to New York City to attend the march.“I think it’s a real restart moment after the pandemic for the big in-the-streets climate movement,” he said. “It’s good to see people get back out there.”The crowd, he said, reflected the diversity of New York City.“I’m glad to see there’s a lot of old people like me here,” said McKibben, who founded Third Act, an activist group aimed at elders. “We’ll be marching in the back because we’re slow!”Climate scientist Peter Kalmus at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab also spoke at the press conference, saying that he has two kids in high school and that he’s “terrified for their future”.“I’m terrified for my future right now,” he added.“We are so clearly in a fucking climate emergency. Why won’t Biden declare it?” he said. More
From 2h agoGeorgia governor Brian Kemp has issued a state of emergency for the state that is set to last until 11.59pm on 8 September.“We are taking every precaution ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s landfall tomorrow, and I am taking this additional executive action to ensure state assets are ready to respond,” Kemp said on Tuesday ahead of Idalia.“Georgians in the expected impact area can and should take necessary steps to ensure their safety and that of their families. We are well positioned to respond to whatever Idalia may bring,” he added.The executive order said that Idalia “has the potential to produce severe impacts to citizens throughout south-central and southeast coastal Georgia”, and that potential flooding, downed trees, power lines, and debris may render “Georgia’s network of roads impassable in affected counties, isolating residences and persons from access to essential public services.”The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, warned potential looters seeking to steal from people’s homes following the storm, saying: “You loot, we shoot.”“I’ve told all of our personnel at the state level, you protect people’s property and we are not going to tolerate any looting in the aftermath of a natural disaster. I mean, it’s just ridiculous that you would try to do something like that on the heels of an almost category 4 hurricane hitting this community,” DeSantis said in a press conference on Wednesday.
“Also, just remind potential looters that even you never know what you’re walking into. People have a right to defend the property. [In] this part of Florida, you got a lot of advocates [who] are proponents of the second amendment and I’ve seen signs in different people’s yards in the past after these disasters and I would say probably here: ‘You loot, we shoot.’”
World Central Kitchen, a non-profit founded by the celebrity chef and restaurateur José Andrés, mobilized its teams across western Florida ahead of Hurricane Idalia making landfall earlier today.WCK teams have prepared hundreds of sandwiches to provide immediate relief for residents.The Florida division of emergency management has issued a warning on hidden dangers of floodwaters.“Please do NOT walk, wade or drive through floodwaters as they can hide a variety of dangers,” the division said.Here are some graphics created by the Guardian’s visuals team on Hurricane Idalia’s path and direction:The Guardian has published an explainer on storm surges and the threat from storm surges from Hurricane Idalia.For the full story, click here:Here are some images of Hurricane Idalia coming through the newswires:The South Carolina governor, Henry McMaster, said that he does not think Hurricane Idalia will be as detrimental as other hurricanes that have swept through the state.“This is not as bad as some that we’ve seen. We don’t think it’s going to be as disruptive as some but it is going to be disruptive. There’s going to be high winds, a lot of water,” McMaster said at a press briefing on Wednesday.He added that the state is not going to have any evacuations, saying:
“We are not going to have any evacuations. We’re not have any closing of state agencies … This does not appear to be one that requires any evacuation orders or closing of state agencies but some of the schools are closed. Some of the schools are closed, we’re urging them to try to get back open back up as quickly as possible …
We’ve been through this before. We’ve been through a lot worse than this one appears to be, so we are ready.”
Georgia governor Brian Kemp has issued a state of emergency for the state that is set to last until 11.59pm on 8 September.“We are taking every precaution ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s landfall tomorrow, and I am taking this additional executive action to ensure state assets are ready to respond,” Kemp said on Tuesday ahead of Idalia.“Georgians in the expected impact area can and should take necessary steps to ensure their safety and that of their families. We are well positioned to respond to whatever Idalia may bring,” he added.The executive order said that Idalia “has the potential to produce severe impacts to citizens throughout south-central and southeast coastal Georgia”, and that potential flooding, downed trees, power lines, and debris may render “Georgia’s network of roads impassable in affected counties, isolating residences and persons from access to essential public services.”The Guardian’s Ankita Rao has tweeted photos of what she describes as “some of the worst flooding” in Tarpon, Florida, that her parents and friends have seen as a result of Hurricane Idalia.According to Rao, the access to and from one of her friend’s home has been flooded entirely.Other residents can be seen kayaking across the flood waters.Idalia has brought heavy flooding and damage to the state’s Gulf coast after it made landfall slightly before 8am ET on Wednesday as a category 3 storm.“I found them all to be laser focused on what their needs were and I asked them, but I think they’re reassured that we’re going to be there for whatever they need, including search and rescue off the shore,” Biden said of the governors of North and South Carolina, as well as Georgia, as he reffirmed federal assistance to southeastern states currently enduring Hurricane Idalia.“How can we not respond? My god, how can we not respond to those needs?” Biden said in response to whether he can assure Amricans that the federal government is going to have the emergency funding that they need to get through this hurricane season.“I’m confident even though there’s a lot of talk from some of our friends up in the Hill about the cost. We got to do it. This is the United States of America,” he added.“I don’t think anybody can deny the impact of a climate crisis anymore. Just look around. Historic floods. I mean, historic floods. More intense droughts, extreme heat, significant wildfires have caused significant damage,” Biden said.He added that he has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to redeploy resources, including up to 1,500 personnel and 900 Coast Guard personnel throughout the south-eastern states.Biden said that he approved an early request of an emergency declaration by Florida governor Ron DeSantis “in advance” of Hurricane Idalia’s arrival.He added that he spoke with the governors of Georgia and South Carolia and let each of them know that “if there’s anything the states need right now, I’m ready to mobilize that support.”President Joe Biden is speaking now about Hurricane Idalia.We will bring you the latest updates.Anthony White is in Perry, Florida where the small city is seeing widespread destruction as a result of Hurricane Idalia.He reports for the Guardian:Driving into Perry, a small, historic city with a population of just more than 7,000 on Wednesday morning, about 15 miles inland from the coast where Hurricane Idalia made landfall, the scene of destruction was jaw-dropping.Many residents had evacuated, especially after it was announced that some emergency shelters in the region would need to close because even they may not be able to withstand the impact of the storm.Approaching from Tallahassee, the state capital, 50 miles inland, where I left on Tuesday evening at the urging of relatives – having originally planned to ride out the hurricane – more and more streets and highways were blocked by fallen trees on the approach to Perry.There were power lines down all over the place and poles leaning, flood waters in some parts, and trees blocking even several lanes on both sides of the four-lane highway, forcing people to drive in the median. There was danger everywhere.For the full story, click here: More
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The upstart Republican candidate has made inaccurate claims about climate change as well as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, while mischaracterizing his own positions and past comments.Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and author, commanded considerable attention during the first Republican primary debate as his standing was rising in national polls.Railing against “wokeism” and the “climate cult,” Mr. Ramaswamy has staked out unorthodox positions on a number of issues and characterized himself as the candidate most likely to appeal to young and new conservative voters.Here’s a fact check of his recent remarks on the campaign trail and during the debate.Climate change denialWhat Mr. Ramaswamy Said“There was this Obama appointee, climate change activist, who also believes as part of this Gaia-centric worldview of the earth that water rights need to be protected, which led to a five- to six-hour delay in the critical window of getting waters to put out those fires. We will never know, although certain science points out to the fact that we very well could have avoided those catastrophic deaths, many of them, if water had made it to the site of the fires on time.”— at a conservative conference in Atlanta in AugustThis lacks evidence. Mr. Ramaswamy was referring to M. Kaleo Manuel, the deputy director for Hawaii’s Commission on Water Resource Management, and overstating his ties to President Barack Obama as well as the potential effect of the requested water diversion.First, Mr. Manuel is not an “Obama appointee” but rather participated in a leadership development program run by the Obama Foundation in 2019. Mr. Ramaswamy and other conservative personalities have derided comments Mr. Manuel made last year when he said that native Hawaiians like himself used to consider water something to “revere” and something that “gives us life.”On Aug. 8, the day wildfire engulfed a historic town in Hawaii, Mr. Manuel was contacted by the West Maui Land Company, a real estate developer that supplies water to areas southeast of the town of Lahaina on Maui island, The New York Times has reported. Noting high winds and drought, the company requested permission to fill a private reservoir for fire control, though the reservoir was not connected to fire hydrants. No fire was blazing in the area at the time.The water agency asked the company whether the fire department had made the request, received no answer and said that it needed the approval of a farmer who relied on the water for his crops. The company said that it could not reach the farmer, but that the agency approved the request hours later.Asked for evidence of Mr. Ramaswamy’s claim that filling the reservoir when initially requested would have prevented deaths from the fire, a spokeswoman said it was “common sense — if you can put out a fire faster using water, you can save lives.”But state officials have said it is unlikely that the delay would have changed the course of the fire that swallowed Lahaina, as high winds would have prevented firefighters from gaining access to the reservoir. In an Aug. 10 letter to the water agency, an executive at the West Maui Land Company acknowledged that there was no way to know whether “filling our reservoirs” when initially requested would have changed the outcome, but asked the agency to temporarily suspend existing water regulations. The executive, in another letter, also wrote that “we would never imply responsibility” on Mr. Manuel’s part.What Mr. Ramaswamy Said“The reality is more people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change.”— in the first Republican debate on WednesdayFalse. There is no evidence to support this assertion. A spokeswoman for Mr. Ramaswamy cited a 2022 column in the libertarian publication “Reason” that argued that limiting the use of fossil fuels would hamper the ability to deliver power, heat homes and pump water during extreme weather events. But the campaign did not provide examples of climate change policies actually causing deaths. The World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations agency, estimated in May that extreme weather events, compounded by climate change, caused nearly 12,000 disasters and a death toll of 2 million between 1970 and 2021. Extreme heat causes about 600 deaths in the United States a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2021 study found that a third of heat-related deaths could be attributed to climate change. In campaign appearances and social media posts, Mr. Ramaswamy has also pointed to a decline in the number of disaster-related deaths in the past century, even as emissions have risenThat, experts have said, is largely because of technological advances in weather forecasting and communication, mitigation tools and building codes. The May study by the World Meteorological Organization, for example, noted that 90 percent of extreme weather deaths occur in developing countries — precisely because of the gap in technological advances. Disasters are occurring at increasing frequencies, the organization has said, even as fatalities decrease.Mr. Ramaswamy, a millennial, has described himself as the candidate most likely to appeal to young and new conservative voters.Kenny Holston/The New York TimesJan. 6 and the 2020 electionWhat Mr. Ramaswamy Said“What percentage of the people who were armed were federal law-enforcement officers? I think it was probably high, actually. Right? There’s very little evidence of people being arrested for being armed that day. Most of the people who were armed, I assume the federal officers who were out there were armed.”— in an interview with The Atlantic in JulyFalse. Mr. Ramaswamy has echoed the right-wing talking point that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol did not involve weapons and was largely peaceful. His spokeswoman argued that he was merely asking questions.But as early this month, 104 out of about 1,100 total defendants have been charged with entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon, according to the Justice Department. At least 13 face gun charges.It is impossible to know just how many people in the crowd of 28,000 were armed, as some may have concealed their weapons or chosen to remain outside of magnetometers set up at the Ellipse, a sprawling park near the White House, where Mr. Trump held his rally. Still, through those magnetometers, Secret Service confiscated 242 canisters of pepper spray, 269 knives or blades, 18 brass knuckles, 18 stun guns, 30 batons or blunt instruments, and 17 miscellaneous items like scissors, needles or screwdrivers, according to the final report from the Jan. 6 committee.What was SaidChris Christie, former governor of New Jersey: “In your book, you had much different things to say about Donald Trump than you’re saying here tonight.”Mr. Ramaswamy: “That’s not true.”— in the Republican debateMr. Ramaswamy was wrong. During the debate, Mr. Ramaswamy vigorously defended Mr. Trump, calling him “ the best president of the 21st century.” Mr. Christie was correct that Mr. Ramaswamy was much more critical of Mr. Trump in his books.In his 2022 book, “Nation of Victims,” Mr. Ramaswamy wrote that despite voting for Mr. Trump in 2020, “what he delivered in the end was another tale of grievance, a persecution complex that swallowed much of the Republican Party whole.”Mr. Ramaswamy added that he was “especially disappointed when I saw President Trump take a page from the Stacey Abrams playbook,” referring to the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor who, after her 2018 defeat, sued the state over accusations of voter suppression. Moreover, he wrote, Mr. Trump’s claims of electoral fraud were “weak” and “weren’t grounded in fact.”In his 2021 book, “Woke Inc.,” Mr. Ramaswamy described the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol as a “a disgrace, and it was a stain on our history” that made him “ashamed of our nation.”And after the Jan. 6 attack, Mr. Ramaswamy wrote on Twitter, “What Trump did last week was wrong. Downright abhorrent. Plain and simple.”Foreign policyWhat Mr. RAMASWAMY said“Much of our military defense spending in the last several decades has not actually gone to national defense.”— in an interview on the Fox Business Network in AugustFalse. A spokeswoman for Mr. Ramaswamy said he was comparing military aid to foreign countries and “homeland defense.” But the amount the United States has spent on security assistance pales in comparison to general military spending and homeland security spending.According to the federal government’s foreign assistance portal, military aid to other countries ranged from $6 billion to $23 billion annually from the fiscal years 2000 to 2022, peaking in the fiscal years 2011 and 2012 when aid to Afghanistan alone topped $10 billion a year.In the past two decades, the Pentagon’s annual budget ranged from over $400 billion to over $800 billion. Operation and maintenance is the largest category of spending (36 percent) and includes money spent on fuel, supplies, facilities, recruiting and training, followed by compensation for military personnel (23 percent), procurement of new equipment and weapons (19 percent), and research and development (16 percent).The Department of Homeland Security itself has an annual budget that has increased from $40 billion in the 2004 fiscal year, when the agency was created, to over $100 billion in the 2023 fiscal year.Mr. Ramaswamy’s claim reflects a common misconception among American voters, who tend to overestimate the amount spent on foreign aid. Foreign aid of all categories — including military aid as well as assistance for health initiatives, economic development or democratic governance — makes up less than 1 percent of the total federal budget. In comparison, about one-sixth of federal spending goes to national defense, according to the Congressional Budget Office.Outside of official government figures, researchers at Brown University have estimated that since Sept. 11, military spending in the United States has exceeded $8 trillion. By that breakdown, the United States has spent $2.3 trillion in funding for overseas fighting versus $1.1 trillion in homeland security defenses. But that figure also includes spending that cannot be neatly categorized as overseas versus domestic defense spending: $1.3 trillion in general military spending increases and medical care, $1.1 trillion in interest payments and $2.2 trillion for future veterans care.What Was SaidNikki Haley, former United Nations ambassador: “You want to go and defund Israel, you want to give Taiwan to China. You want to go and give Ukraine to Russia.”Mr. Ramaswamy: “Let me address that. I’m glad you brought that up. I’m going to address each of those right now. This is the false lies of a professional politician.”— in the Republican debateBoth exaggerated. Ms. Haley omitted nuance in describing Mr. Ramaswamy’s foreign policy positions, but her characterizations are far from “lies.”In interviews and campaign appearances, Mr. Ramaswamy has said that he views the deal to provide Israel with $38 billion over 10 years for its security as “sacrosanct.” But he has said that by 2028, when the deal expires, he hopes that Israel “will not require and be dependent on that same level of historical aid or commitment from the U.S.”In a nearly hourlong speech at the Nixon Library this month, Mr. Ramaswamy said his administration would “defend Taiwan if China invades Taiwan before we have semiconductor independence in this country,” which he estimated he could achieve by 2028. But, he continued, “thereafter, we will be very clear that after the U.S. achieves semiconductor independence, our commitments to send our sons and daughters to put them in harm’s way will change.”On Russia’s war in Ukraine, Mr. Ramaswamy has said he would “freeze the current lines of control” — which includes several southeastern regions of Ukraine — and pledge to prohibit Ukraine from being admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization if Russia ended its “alliance” with China. (The two countries do not have a formal alliance.)Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.We welcome suggestions and tips from readers on what to fact-check on email and Twitter. More
When President Joe Biden passed the Inflation Reduction Act a year ago, Adrien Salazar was skeptical.The landmark climate bill includes $60bn for environmental justice investments – money he had fought for, as policy director for the leading US climate advocacy coalition Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJA).But after much discussion, the grassroots group realized they did not have the resources to chase after IRA funding. It would have to hire new staff and develop a specific program to apply for grants to access those funds. The coalition is stretched thin as is: organizing local and state campaigns, leading community engagement, and planning youth programming. GGJA decided it would not apply to funding opportunities at all.“It is not within our capacity to try to build a program that helps our members access federal funding. We just don’t have the capacity to do that,” Salazar said. Many employees lack the time or knowhow to take on grant opportunities.“We’re a national organization. How can we imagine a small organization that’s doing neighborhood, grassroots-level door-knocking to have the capacity to also navigate the federal bureaucracy?”Indeed, many of the small, community-based organizations that would benefit from funding the most are facing hurdles to competing for these investments.Together, their experiences tell a story that echoes other environmental justice experts’ concerns about the IRA – that the monumental spending package won’t assist the communities that need the money the most.Last year, advocates speaking to the Guardian criticized the bill for its many concessions to the fossil fuel industry: “This new bill is genocide, there is no other way to put it,” said Siqiñiq Maupin, co-founder of the Indigenous-led environmental justice group Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic. Salazar felt similarly: how could he trust the federal government to allocate those billions of dollars to communities of color when it still fails to protect them from polluters?Now, a second major criticism has emerged: some groups simply don’t have the time or resources to navigate the complicated bureaucratic process of applying for funding.A year after the law’s passing, various grant deadlines for funding have already come and gone, representing key opportunities many groups may have missed.Applying for funding opportunities – which is no guarantee of success – requires local community groups that are often run by volunteers to prepare an enormous amount of documentation.Lakiesha Lloyd, an organizer who lives and works in Charleston, West Virginia, is still educating herself on how the application process works. She sees the historic climate bill as a lifeline for her predominantly Black community on the West Side where concrete highways crisscross the neighborhood and poor air quality reigns.“We’ve never seen this kind of investment toward climate in our nation’s history,” said Lloyd, who works as a climate justice organizer for the national veterans rights group, Common Defense.Still, she has a lot to learn until she can tap in herself. Instead, she’s relying on a peer partner to help navigate the federal grant-making process.Morgan King, a climate campaign coordinator in West Virginia who has worked with Lloyd, said applying for grants is often easier said than done.“It’s not something that someone can just sit down alone and write within a several-hour time gap,” she said. “The grant application, especially for federal grants, is a beast and requires basically to set aside a week or two of time just focused on it.”This year, King worked with several non-profits to prepare an application for a public health-focused grant program.They had hoped to develop a pilot program on Charleston’s West Side to provide indoor air monitors to income-eligible households. With this data, local advocates could educate community members and engage them in citizen science while also building a case for electrifying homes that currently run on gas.Ultimately, the groups working with King weren’t able to develop an application that felt competitive before the grant deadline hit.“I think had we had a grant writer or more time, we could’ve gotten it there,” King said.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionIn light of these challenges, some critics of the IRA have said their concerns about the spending bill have only deepened.Maria Lopez-Nuñez, a member of the White House environmental justice advisory council, remains wary of whether the money set aside for environmental justice priorities will outweigh the damage done by the legislation’s further investment in fossil fuels.“On one hand, there’s incredible amounts of money out there for communities to actually deal with the issues at hand,” said Lopez-Nuñez. “On the other hand, there are even larger investments in climate scams that are going to hit communities fast and hard,” she added, referring to IRA money set aside for carbon capture and sequestration, as well as hydrogen projects.With more funding, these types environmental harms are exactly the kinds of problems locals groups would be more effective at combating – if only they could access such grants. The federal government has taken notice of this irony and proposed a solution.In April, the Environmental Protection Agency announced the formation of over a dozen regional hubs – better known as TCTACs (pronounced like the mint) – that will aid local community groups attempting to access IRA money.“We know that so many communities across the nation have the solutions to the environmental challenges they face,” said the EPA administrator, Michael Regan, in a statement. “Unfortunately, many have lacked access or faced barriers when it comes to the crucial federal resources needed to deliver these solutions.”In the New York and New Jersey region, for instance, the EPA is funding the national advocacy group We-Act for Environmental Justice, which plans to hire a specialist in government funds and offer grant-writing training and workshops.“Across the federal government, there is no central place you can go to [learn] about the funding opportunities that are available,” said Dana Johnson, senior director of strategy and federal policy for We-Act.Although these hubs are meant to offer more specialized, regional assistance to groups, there are still some concerns as to whether they will be successful owing to the demands that will be made of them; the hub that covers the south-eastern US includes a mammoth territory of eight states.“It’s too soon to know if the IRA will be in any way successful, but it is very clear that the problems that were baked into it are very real and impacting people now,” said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, a national climate strategist and founder of Climate Critical, an organization working to undo the harm and trauma many climate advocates carry.For Lloyd, the work of unlocking funding sources will continue with or without additional support from the federal government.Since March, she’s been working with King to meet with West Side neighbors and inform them about the IRA – and most importantly, dream with them about the types of projects they want to see emerge from the law’s investments. Together, they have come up with ideas for LED street lights, renewable energy development, green spaces and a farm-to-market grocery store.She’s looking forward to grants opening up and connecting with the technical assistance centers to figure out how to access them. Lloyd remains an optimist. “Optimism is really all we have sometimes,” she said. More
The US’ first serious legislative attempt to tackle the climate crisis, the Inflation Reduction Act, is hitting its first anniversary both lauded for turbocharging a seismic shift to clean energy while also weathering serious attack from Republicans.Joe Biden hailed the bill, which despite its name is at heart a major shove towards a future dominated by renewable energy and electric vehicles, as “one of the most significant laws in our history” when signing it on 16 August last year.And the White House is trying to use the first year marker to extol it as a pivotal moment in tackling the climate emergency.“It’s the largest investment in clean energy in American history, and I would argue in world history, to tackle the climate crisis,” John Podesta, Biden’s chief clean energy advisor, told the Guardian. “With any legislation it takes time to get traction, but this is performing above expectations.”Podesta said there has been an “enormous response” in take-up for the tax credits that festoon the $369bn bill, directed at zero-carbon energy projects such as solar, wind and nuclear, grants for bring renewables manufacturing to the US and consumer incentives to purchase electric cars, heat pumps and electric stoves.Here are the key points to know about the impact of the act so far as it approaches its anniversary on August 16:1A boom in clean energy investmentThere has been around $278bn in new clean energy investments, creating more than 170,000 jobs, across the US in the first year of the Inflation Reduction Act, according to an estimate by the advocacy group Climate Power. The White House claims that there will be twice as much wind, solar and battery storage deployment over the next seven years than if the bill was never enacted, with companies already spending twice as much on new manufacturing facilities as they were pre-IRA.“It’s been more impactful than I or other observers would’ve thought,” said James Stock, a climate economist at Harvard University.Stock said that while the Inflation Reduction Act won’t by itself eliminate planet-heating emissions in the US, it is the “first substantive step” towards doing so and should help propagate the next generation of hoped-for clean fuels, such as hydrogen, in its 10-year lifespan. “As the tax credits are uncapped, too, we will see a lot more invested than we expected,” he said. “We could easily see $800bn to $1.2tn.”2More people are buying electric vehiclesThe Inflation Reduction Act includes rebates of up to $7,500 for buying an electric vehicle, and this incentive appears to be paying off – EV sales are set to top 1m in the US for the first time this year. Moreover, over half of US drivers are considering an EV for their next purchase, polling has shown.This transition isn’t without its hurdles, however – there has been a shortage of key parts in the EV supply chain, many models still remain prohibitively expensive and unions have been unhappy at the lack of worker protections for many of the new plants that are popping up. Climate advocates, meanwhile, have questioned why similarly strong support hasn’t been given to public transit or e-bikes to help get people out of cars altogether.3It will slash US emissions, but not by enoughThe US is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the Inflation Reduction Act is widely forecast to slash these emissions, by as much as 48% by 2035, from 2005 levels, according to one analysis.These forecasts have a relatively wide range of estimates due to uncertainties such as economic growth but even in the most optimistic scenario the US will require further measures if it is to get to net zero emissions by 2050, as scientists have said is imperative if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.“Even though we passed the IRA you ain’t seen nothing yet,” said Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, in promising a fresh climate bill recently. But given the riven nature of US politics, the prospects of such legislation is remote in the near term.A more likely way to bridge the emissions gap will be a raft of regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as new standards to cut pollution from cars, trucks and power plants, as well as progress by individual states. “We basically need everything to go right,” said John Larsen, a partner at Rhodium group, an energy analysis organization4The IRA has so far escaped Republican cuts – but Biden is fighting to get creditThe legislation was a breakthrough moment following decades of obfuscation and delay by Congress despite increasingly frantic warnings by climate scientists over global heating, with the bill itself borne from months of torturous, comprise-laden negotiations with Joe Manchin, the coal baron senator from West Virginia who held a swing vote for its passage.But the legislation has already faced the threat of repeal from Republicans, who universally voted against it, with the GOP’s first bill after gaining control of the House of Representatives this year gutting key elements of the Inflation Reduction Act. This is despite the majority of clean energy investments flowing to Republican-led districts.Biden has also faced the ire of climate progressives for somewhat undercutting his landmark moment with an aggressive giveaway of oil and gas drilling leases on public land, including the controversial Willow oil project in Alaska, and for incentivizing the use of technologies such as carbon capture that have been criticized as an unproven distraction at a time when the world is baking under record heatwaves.“Biden has an atrocious track record on fossil fuels, and that needs to change,” said Jean Su, an attorney and climate campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity who called on Biden to declare a climate emergency. There needs to be a “sea-change in this administration’s approach” on the climate crisis, according to Jeff Merkley, a Democratic senator. “No more green lighting fossil gas projects. No more stalling on a climate emergency. Now is the time for us to live up to the full promise of the Inflation Reduction Act.”Polling shows the majority of American voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the climate crisis and only three in 10 have heard that much about the Inflation Reduction Act at all. Such perceptions will need to be turned around if the US president is to help secure the legacy of the bill in next year’s election.“We are going at a record clip to try to address this climate crisis,” said White House adviser Podesta. “I know people want us to hurry up and I wish we could produce a net zero economy immediately but this is a global transition that’s never occurred in human history. We need to get this job done.”The IRA act has not pleased leaders in the EU who have attacked it for being “protectionist” though some have argued they should instead be investing along similar lines.Clean energy investment has gone to red statesNo Republican voted for the Inflation Reduction Act but most of the investment that has been triggered by the bill has been funneled into projects in GOP-held Congressional districts. An emerging ‘battery belt’ is forming in the US south, with battery and electric vehicle plants popping up in states such as Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.“The IRA has been absolutely critical for us in terms of giving market certainties to go bold and big in our investment,” said a spokeswoman for QCells, a solar manufacturer that has embarked upon a major expansion in Georgia.5Renewables are booming – but there’s a transmission bottleneckIf the future wasn’t renewables before the IRA, it certainly is now – more than 80% of new electricity capacity this year will come from wind, solar and battery storage, according to federal government forecasts. The framers of the legislation hoped it will create a sort of virtuous circle whereby more renewable capacity will push down the cost of already cheap clean energy sources, seeding yet further renewable deployment.Solar panels may be dotting California and wind turbines sprouting off the east coast, but without the unglamorous build-out of transmission lines much of the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act may be lost.Not only is there a lack of physical poles and wires to shift clean energy from one part of the country to another, many clean energy projects are facing interminable waits, lasting several years, to be connected to the grid at all. There is more than 1,250 gigawatts of solar and wind capacity actively seeking grid connection, which is about equal to the entire existing US power plant fleet.“Something’s going to have to change to get this deployment online,” said Larsen. “Beyond that it will be about building stuff at scale, very, very quickly.” More