Time for Manchin to act on climate

By Eric Engle

Sep 27, 2021

West Virginia’s senior senator, Joe Manchin III, is certainly the talk of the town these days, so to speak. Or, perhaps, more like the talk of the world.

The only way that should be looked at positively is for all the sustained attention our state has been getting. Outside of the attention, well, Manchin, D-W.Va., is mostly failing us.

Those of us alive today are at a critical historical juncture. We’re alive at a time when humankind is facing our last, best hope to avoid climate catastrophe. I won’t go quite as far as columnist Paul Krugman in saying that Manchin alone may decide earth’s fate, but Manchin does hold a considerable amount of power at a time when policymakers like himself are tasked with making crucial decisions for virtually all of posterity.

I always flinch a bit when I read or hear someone say that we’re “destroying the planet” or that we need to “save the planet.” Earth itself will go on until such time as something on a cosmic scale, like our sun dying, occurs (an event predicted not to take place for billions of years yet). Earth will find new equilibrium. What’s at stake is us and countless other species of flora and fauna on Earth as we know it. The existential crisis pertains to our existence. We’re destroying biodiversity and a habitable planet.

On Sept. 17, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change released a report synthesizing what are referred to as the Nationally Determined Contributions of the signatories to the Paris Climate Accords ahead of crucial upcoming world meetings in Glasgow, Scotland. The UNFCCC found that, unless the world’s countries dramatically speed up the needed energy transitions to renewable energy and accelerate other climate-related policy changes, the world is on track to reach 2.7 degrees Celsius (nearly 5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming over a preindustrial baseline by the end of this century. This would be absolutely devastating.

Manchin and others are fond of arguing that we can’t afford a rapid transition to renewable energy and sustainability, especially in states like West Virginia. I beg to differ, and I’m not alone.

A recent study from the Institute for New Economic Thinking, at the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, found that, “The belief that the green energy transition will be expensive has been a major driver of the ineffective response to climate change for the last forty years. This pessimism is at odds with past technological cost-improvement trends, and risks locking humanity into an expensive and dangerous energy future. … a greener, healthier and safer global energy system is also likely to be cheaper.”