🌎 #287: France has *how many* electric mail trucks?
A lot. It's a lot.
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Here comes Ira
The news: Barring a legislative disaster today, the US House of Representatives will pass the imperfect "Inflation Reduction Act", President Joe Biden will then sign it, probably in aviators, and the United States will finally in earnest enter the climate fight -- and that's when the hard (but wildly rewarding) work begins.
South Korea will ban deadly, flooded, Parasite-like basement apartments, Australia (Australia!) is going to cut emissions, East Africa faces a future of famine, the melting Alps are rewriting borders, Spain turned on a massive solar plant, Germany might keep their nuclear plants online after all, Mexico's running out of water, and it's 31 goddamn degrees hotter in East Harlem than Central Park West.
Understand it: So, if/when passed, when will Ira (we're calling it Ira now, ok) -- expected over time to eliminate at least 4 billion tons of emissions -- actually start to help?
In some places, right away:
NEW: The enactment timeline for the IRA, per WH data obtained by @axios
— Sophia Cai (@SophiaCai99)
Aug 11, 2022
And that's not all, because the bill -- mostly industrial policy dressed up in disguise -- addresses mitigation, adaptation, and disaster relief, like the $4 billion for drought relief headed out west (courtesy of (checks notes, gasps) Kyrsten Sinema?!).
To understand where the money's going, check out this image from Bloomberg, c/o Shanu (give him a follow):
Great visualization by @BloombergNEF which shows the estimated 2022-31 energy transition spending in both the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Segments into emissions categories and includes specific subsets within each.
— Shanu Mathew 🌎🌳⚡️ (@ShanuMathew93)
Aug 8, 2022
The deal: I have been super-duper clear that there were always going to be compromises with a 50/50 Senate, one of whom is a villainous coal baron. Now, at the turn of the tide, they look like pipelines nobody wants, and revived fossil-fuel leases in protected lands and waters.
Half of my job is to illustrate how many things can be true at once, in this case:
- This bill is the biggest effort we've ever made to slow the crisis long-term, and to help people now
- It doesn't go anywhere near far enough, and yet it's also the most we could get
- It will create millions of new jobs, but mostly for men
- It's got 10 years of uncapped EV credits, finally
- But those credits increasingly require an EV battery supply chain that doesn't exist (yet)
- But that future supply chain could rewrite mineral resource geopolitics
- It's got tens of billions for environmental justice, but millions of marginalized Black, Brown, and Indigenous people will still continue to suffer because of those compromises -- if this is all we do.
And that's the key. We need this bill to pass today. But once it does, have no doubt, the coming years will require we fight on every front for a radically cleaner, more equitable world.
⚡️What We Can Do: Check out Rewiring America's brief on the IRA's provisions for marginalized communities -- and then get to work.
Is it turn up the AC or turn down the AC?
The news: Back to school time means throwback Trapper-Keepers and rekindled debates about COVID vaccine mandates and masks, with little discussion of how we really level the playing field: ventilation.
Understand it: While a new pre-print indicates Massachusetts schools that lifted mask mandates brought on 45% more cases than schools that didn't, mask policy is a whole thing.
You probably want to know why schools have only used (as of May) just 7% of the $122 billion in free federal cash to clean the air that acts as a conduit for viruses to travel so uninhibited among us.
The answer mostly comes back to our public schools being completely neglected before the pandemic even hit. The buildings are so old, their HVAC systems so antiquated (if not just radiators), making wholesale changes could be super disruptive and take forever.
But I will remind everyone we are in the third year of a global pandemic -- there is practically no time like the present to do the damn work.
Sure, open all the windows you can (and build new ones if you have to), add air purifiers, add MERV filters, but for a limited time, the money's there to overhaul the whole system (and cool increasingly hot classrooms along the way) -- we just have to decide to do it.
FOOD & WATER
I expected more drip
The news: Our relationship with water is changing, quickly, and it's on us to adapt and build a more equitable and reliable future.
If you're new here, this is something you really, really want to keep an eye on.
- European rivers are getting warmer (threatening nuclear power) and drying up, threatening $80 billion in trade
- The US west faces a future without snow and California is scrambling to build storage for stormwater, water recycling, and desalination
- India's building water pipelines but women are still marching miles for water
- New York is still building in places Hurricane Sandy flooded and future storms will flood again
- Investors are piling up claims to Colorado farm water
- Metropolitan areas are increasingly dealing with “freshwater salinization syndrome”
- Forever chemicals have made rainwater unsafe to drink everywhere
It's a lot. But there's good news: we've got the tools to deal with a lot of this.
Regulating forever chemicals and single-use plastics, reducing the demand for meat, reducing agricultural water use, building climate resiliency hubs, stopping new emissions, recycling wastewater, climate reparations to the Global South, and repairing leaky pipes at home can go a long way towards a more sustainable future.
⚡️What We Can Do: Check out the "Communities Responding to Extreme Weather" program to understand what climate resiliency hubs are and how you can implement them in your hometown.
From our pals
Treat yourself to a free dose of optimism from my friend, tech writer Packy McCormick. You deserve it.
HEALTH & BIO
Don't try this at home
The news: With monkeypox vaccines in very short supply, the Biden administration has decided to spread out the juice and administer shots with one-fifth as much vaccine per shot, and into the skin, instead of fat.
This risky move requires HHS to approve an FDA emergency declaration, which has become the equivalent of a middle-school bathroom pass: reluctantly issued and easily abused, but everybody needs one.
Having finally issued a public emergency declaration and distributed their 600,000th dose (they still need about 3x as many), the administration is scrambling, relying on just one clinical study for the gamble, but I mean, they're out of shots, and options.
They fucked this up like it's March 2020, but to be clear: this isn't COVID. For example, you can't just (yet) swab your nostril for monkeypox and call it a day. A trained pro has to swab your active sores, which 1) sucks and 2) is pretty limiting!
But once again we're doing this live, despite a 50 year head-start, so the people most likely to get it right now (men who have sex with men, and some smaller percentage of nonbinary and trans folks) have turned to each other for support, like they did once with HIV/AIDS and COVID, utilizing Google Docs and weekly community forums.
From STAT News:
⚡️What We Can Do: It's safe to say we can do a hell of a lot better than this. If you know someone that's been exposed, share the "A Patient's Guide to TPOXX Access", "Monkeypox Vaccination Access Project", and "So You Got Monkeypox" resources with them.
Facebook's in the "find out" phase
The news: Re: the last few months, the nearly complete lack of data privacy in the United States is coming home to roost.
Where once you did not notice or care if companies hoovered up all of your data, and sometimes even preferred they do so your digital assistant could be marginally more helpful, driving those companies to reach for more, more, more, and storing it for longer and longer, now all those data can increasingly be used against you .
Vice reported on a bombshell new abortion controversy involving Facebook, and you should read Casey Newton's analysis, because there's a whole lot of nuance I don't have room to include in this more brief version of INI.
- A 17-year-old girl and her mom were charged with a series of felonies and misdemeanors after an apparent medication abortion at home in Nebraska
- The state’s case relies on evidence from the teenager’s private Facebook messages, obtained directly from Facebook by court order
- It happened before Roe was overturned
This is going exactly the way privacy advocates (people with souls) predicted it would for users, and at the same time, Facebook's in it, having pursued and hoarded the data on 2 billion people for almost two decades.
Understand it: Be careful what you wish for. There are frantic debates happening inside companies over how they can possibly divest themselves from your precious data as fast as possible before everything comes down around them.
⚡️What We Can Do: We need robust regulations, stat. The FTC is seeking public comments on commercial surveillance and data security and you can chime in here.
10 THINGS FROM MY NOTEBOOK
- 100 years after losing rights to the Colorado River, tribes get them back, and just in time
- France has 40,000 EV mail trucks. Germany? 20,000. America? 12.
- Everything happening with Europe's historic drought
- If you want to buy an EV in America, maybe do it today?
- New York lawmakers want to know why menstrual access sucks for low-income students of color
- A bioengineered cornea can improve people's eyesight (but can it shoot lasers?)
- How Vermont keeps customers cool during heat waves
- How to responsibly donate old clothes
- The environmental impacts of 57,000 different food products, ranked
- Hawaii just received its very last shipment of coal and that's fucking cool
Thanks for reading, and thanks for giving a shit. Have a great weekend.