IN AUGUST, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the most significant legislation ever passed by Congress to address climate change. But what happens now? After all, the days aren’t getting any cooler — a recent study by the First Street Foundation suggests that in 30 years more than 100 million Americans could experience heat index temperatures over 125 degrees Fahrenheit. In our polarized politics, there is already a great deal of confusion and obfuscation about what this historic bill will do. A related question: How will the IRA affect what people of faith do about the existential threat of climate change?
The IRA invests $369 billion over the next 10 years into tax incentives for renewable energy and electric vehicles, domestic manufacture of batteries and solar panels, and pollution reduction. The idea is to make renewable energy and electric vehicles more affordable, both to manufacture and to buy, thus encouraging more consumers to adopt them. The IRA also targets methane pollution by imposing an escalating fee on some oil and gas companies that emit too much methane in their operations and increasing royalty rates paid to the government on methane extraction from public lands. The IRA includes an unprecedented investment of $60 billion into environmental justice initiatives, including clean energy and emission reduction for low-income and disadvantaged communities, block grants for community-led projects in disadvantaged communities to “address disproportionate environmental and public health harms related to pollution and climate change,” and funding to reconnect communities divided by highways.