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Actual Good News On The Climate Front-- As The Worst GOP Climate Deniers Are Beaten... Twice

On September 20, the Democrats moved to end the Republican filibuster of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. Cloture passed 64-30 but among the filibusterers were several Republicans who have to face the voters in November: Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rand Paul (R-KY), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT), John Thune (R-SD), Mike Crapo (R-ID), James Lankford (R-OK) and John Hoeven (R-ND). The next day, the bill itself was voted on and it passed 69-27. Treaties pass with 2/3s of the senators present. Although McConnell changed his position to vote in favor of the treaty, none of the Republican up for reelection in November did. They just assume the issue is too obscure for voters.

Robinson Meyer, writing for The Atlantic yesterday, explained how really important this passage was and why the issue should not be obscure at all. He wrote that the treaty “will phase out the world’s use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, a climate pollutant used as an industrial refrigerant and in sprayable consumer products. Because HFCs are hundreds of thousands of times more potent at capturing heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, the Kigali Amendment, which has already been adopted by 137 countries, is the most significant environmental treaty that the United States has joined in at least a decade… Instead of helping protect the ozone, this tweak was designed to specifically reduce greenhouse gases.”

The Montreal Protocol and its successive amendments are binding treaties with an enforcement mechanism: While the affected chemicals get phased out, only countries that are party to the treaty can trade the chemicals or goods that include them with other countries. This creates a form of lock-in for American companies exporting their products, Nina Kelsey, a political scientist at George Washington University, told me. American industries have tended to support the Montreal Protocol because they benefit from it. That has been true since the 1980s, when DuPont, the sole company that made a replacement chemical for CFCs, argued that the Reagan administration should join talks over the deal that became the pact.
That’s one big reason the U.S. has remained so engaged in the Montreal process even as it has taken a far less active approach in other international treaties. It’s also why Republicans have historically remained friendlier to the Montreal approach relative to other climate policy.
Even so, it wasn’t a sure thing that the United States would join this treaty, even if it had already agreed to abide by it. That the Senate got it done caps an unprecedented year for American climate policy. “Ratifying the Kigali Amendment, along with passing the Inflation Reduction Act, is the strongest one-two punch against climate change any Congress has ever taken,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said before the vote. Normally, such partisan triumphalism is worth ignoring. But in this case… I think he’s actually right?
In fact, after so many years of doing next to nothing on the climate, America seems like it’s in the middle of a mini–golden age for climate policy making. Apart from the IRA, Congress has also passed smaller bills, including the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the CHIPS and Science Act, that implement a dramatic new industrial policy and could increase federal spending on energy R&D.
At the same time, California has vowed to ban new sales of gas-powered cars by 2035, and American automakers have made multibillion-dollar investments in a future where they mostly build and sell electric vehicles. The issue isn’t solved, of course: More legislation and executive action is needed, and the IRA could still fail as a policy experiment. But Congress is doing more now than it’s ever done.
And it’s taking action through alternate channels, too. The success of the Montreal Protocol “shows that even if the major international focus on dealing with greenhouse gases under the Paris Agreement has been less effective, there are other ways to take a bite at the climate problem,” Oppenheimer said. “In this case, quite a big bite. There is a lot more activity around [addressing climate change] than the stultifying lack of progress in international negotiations sometimes makes it look.”

What can you do aside from toasting these developments? Mandela Barnes is working to replace Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Johnson is a virulent climate denier. Barnes is on the side of sanity. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is defending his seat from Herschel Walker, who thinks Global Warming is farting. And John Fetterman would like to replace Pat Toomey (R), who voted against the Kigali Amendment. Toomey is retiring but the Republican fighting to replace him, Mehmet Oz, is worse. So… how about $10 for each of those 3 candidates. That’s what the link is for. This is the list of the senators who voted against allowing the Kigali Amendment to even come up for a vote. They need to be defeated and candidates like them need to be defeated.

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