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Mark Trahant

Last week was one for the books: Across the country Americans lined up to buy a Mega Million lottery ticket and a chance to win $1.34 billion.

The odds of winning, one in three hundred million.

At the same time the Senate was reaching a deal to find the votes for the scaled-down version of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better legislation. This compromise greatly improves the odds that this bill will become law.

And there are lots of odds to think about.

The World Meteorological Association says there is a 50/50 chance that the Earth will reach or surpass the critical mark of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming above pre-industrial levels at least temporarily between now and 2026.

Plus there is the shrinking likelihood that the United States will cut its emissions in half by 2030. A recent report published by Scientific American shows that are likely to fall 17 percent to 25 percent by 2030, or about 1.7 billion metric tons to 2.3 billion metric tons short of meeting Biden’s goal.

The result is that the odds for every major climate disaster, fires, flooding, storms, and infectious diseases, will continue to increase.

Last week’s deal was a policy shift. Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia is one of two Democrats who squashed the president’s original legislative proposal. The other is Arizona Sen. Krysten Sienma. She still has not said how she will vote on this latest compromise.

The legislation’s new primary focus is reducing inflation, by lowering the cost for prescription drugs via Medicare, and lowering health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act.

The legislation also opens up an investment channel of some $369 billion in federal funds for climate-related programs. This includes rebates for families to buy more efficient appliances and vehicles and home improvements,

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This proposal will increase funding for tribes and states – some $5 billion – for climate-related planning and development, plus another $60 billion targeted at climate justice infrastructure.

“This bill would be the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis and improve our energy security right away,” President Biden said from the White House. “And it’ll give us a tool to meet the climate goals that are set — that we’ve agreed to — by cutting emissions and accelerating clean energy. A huge step forward.”

The legislation also continues federal support for the oil and gas industry. And that was the likely price of Manchin’s support.

The Climate Justice team at NDN Collective said the legislation introduces “new harms” to the planet by opening up oil and gas leasing in Alaska, as well as a major subsidy for carbon capture technology, “a false solution that has harmful impacts on land and people.” The Navajo Nation-owned Navajo Transitional Energy Company has invested in a carbon capture project.

“Although the current version of this new climate deal, if passed, would provide large investments into renewable energy and open up funding streams for low income and vulnerable communities, it is missing many critical solutions that Indigenous organizers have been uplifting for years,” NDN Collective said. “We need to expand our scope beyond only calculating greenhouse gas emission reductions and stop emission reduction at the source by pulling away from building new fossil fuel infrastructure. And lawmakers must pass climate justice legislation with Indigenous communities at the table.”

The Indigenous Environmental Network is part of a coalition, People versus Fossil Fuels, calling for a National Day of Action on Aug. 2 to mobilize against fossil fuel expansion and calling on the president to declare a climate emergency.

And the Ikiya Collective, along with more than 350 conservation and community groups, representing millions of people, called on Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer today to reject the compromise.

“Permitting new fossil fuel projects will further entrench us in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come — and constitutes a violent betrayal of your pledge to combat environmental racism and destruction,” the groups’ letter said. “New fossil fuel projects will also lock workers into a dying industry and delay the growth in sectors that will support jobs of the future.”

All 50 Republicans are expected to oppose the compromise. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee Nation, who is running for the Senate in Oklahoma, says “this bill is terrible for our economy.”

While the odds of a climate bill that becomes law have improved, it’s not a done deal. Because the Senate vote will likely be a tie, requiring the vice president’s vote, so any senator could demand changes that could unravel the deal. And in the House, where Democrats have a 220-211 edge, nearly every Democrat will have to be on board. What are the odds of that happening? Better than last week. And, why not? After all, one person did win that big Mega Millions jackpot.

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