Audiences Need to Know What the IRA Means for Them

The bill’s signing is only the beginning of the story.

Biden Signs Inflation Reduction Act

US president Joe Biden signs the Inflation Reduction Act while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin look on. (Photo by Drew Angerer for Getty Images)

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On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed into law the biggest climate legislation in United States history. Though much more must be done, the Inflation Reduction Act puts the US more steadily on a path toward cutting emissions by 2030 as much as science requires to avoid climate change’s worst impacts. Passing the bill was an historic legislative feat in a closely divided Senate, in which every Republican voted against and every Democrat voted for climate action — a juxtaposition political reporters should bear in mind when covering the midterm elections.  

Signing the bill into law is just the beginning of this story. It’s time for journalists to go beyond the topline numbers — $369 billion allocated and as much as 40% emissions reduction — and help audiences understand what the law could mean in practice. What jobs and projects might come to their communities? How can ordinary people and local officials access the law’s clean energy discounts, tax credits, and environmental justice provisions? Journalists also need to track and hold accountable any politicians and special interests standing in the way. There are plenty of stories here for every news outlet, regardless of size or geographic focus. 

The global significance of the Inflation Reduction Act also deserves attention, especially in the run-up to November’s COP27 climate summit. The US is the world’s largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, even as Washington has been one of the biggest obstacles to international action: The US never signed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol; in 2015, Senate opposition compelled negotiators to settle for a Paris Agreement, rather than a binding treaty; and former president Donald Trump subsequently withdrew the US from that agreement. Signing the IRA into law puts the US in a stronger position for COP27, even though the act is notably silent on international climate measures, including the US’s still largely unfulfilled obligation to provide climate aid to poor countries.

The new law is far from perfect — and much has been written about why that’s so. Going forward, the strongest coverage will underscore how much more work is still needed to defuse the climate emergency. It will spotlight the people and communities that climate change hurts the worst. It will explore, critically, the many solutions on offer. Notwithstanding its shortcomings, passing this legislation was essential “to give my generation even a fighting chance [of] living in a world that averts the worst of the climate catastrophe,” Varshini Prakash, executive director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, told the Washington Post. Clear-eyed climate journalism is a vital contributor to that fight.

From Us 

Extreme heat webinar. CCNow hosted a Talking Shop, “Covering the Human Impacts of Extreme Heat,” on the toll that extreme heat takes on the human body and the policy failings that make surviving it harder, if not impossible. Anna Phillips of The Washington Post and independent journalists Sofia Moutinho and Snigdha Poonam shared their insights. Watch here.

Noteworthy Stories

By the numbers. The Upshot breaks down the US climate bill by initiative (and cost or revenue) and compares the IRA to its predecessor, Build Back Better. By Francesca Paris, Alicia Parlapiano, Margot Sanger-Katz, and Eve Washington for The New York Times… 

Burning offsets. Carbon offsets are a largely unregulated, $1-billion-a-year business. Companies including Shell, Phillips 66, and Microsoft have purchased offsets from timber companies that promise to leave forests standing, allowing purchasers to continue burning carbon while pledging to be “carbon neutral” in the future. But more forests are now going up in smoke, thanks to climate-fueled wildfires, and taking those offsets with them. By Ben Tracy at CBS News…

It’s the humidity. What happens to the human body in extreme heat? This five-minute video explaining “wet bulb temperature” gives a quick primer on how humidity makes heat even more dangerous, and which places have already passed the livable wet bulb threshold. By Jesse Nichols for Grist…

China’s record heat. China remains in the grip of the worst heatwave in at least 60 years, causing rolling blackouts that are leaving millions of people without electricity. Meteorological authorities have issued high temperature alerts every day for nearly a month, as rivers and reservoirs dry up, factories shut down, and crop yields are threatened. By Sutirtho Patranobis for The Hindustan Times…

Displaced by climate. Tribal communities from Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles are experiencing the US government’s first voluntary climate resettlement project. Community relocations are always tough, but increasingly frequent and severe climate events make this one even harder. By Olga Loginova and Zak Cassel for The Center for Public Integrity…

Betting on nature. The IRA makes a sizable investment in protecting forests, encouraging sustainable agriculture, and other “nature-based” solutions,” a fact which has gone largely under-covered by the press. By Brady Dennis for The Washington Post…  

Water shortage in the West. The US government is limiting water usage in Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico as a prolonged drought continues to diminish the flow of the Colorado River. California does not yet face cuts. But experts point out that the entire region is a desert and climate change will continue reducing water supply for the foreseeable future. By Tony Briscoe for the Los Angeles Times…

Free to Publish

The following stories deserve special consideration for republication by CCNow partners:

For partner outlets: The full list of stories available for republication and instructions to do so can be found in our Sharing Library. To submit stories for sharing, please use this form

Odds & Ends

Jobs. The Miami Herald has a position open for a Multimedia Engagement Reporter focusing on climate change. KUER News in Southern Utah is hiring a Climate & Environment Reporter. And The Washington Post is looking for a Policy, Politics, and Power Editor, for its Climate & Environment Department. The Sweaty Penguin is hiring two part-time positions for sound editor and environmental researcher.

Fellowships. Climate Tracker’s COP27 Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship closes on Friday, August 19. Boston University’s Religion & Environment Story Project fellowship application closes on August 25.

Event. Join this month’s ‘Climate Conversation,’ from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, about wildfire, on Thursday, August 25, at 3pm US Eastern Time. RSVP here.

Resource. Check out this Climate Central backgrounder, from their ‘Solution Series,’ about climate-friendly homes. This resource includes topline ideas about local story angles to pursue and a list of experts to contact. Read here.