Conventional wisdom has it that the federal legislative process is broken and that, no matter how urgent the need the American people can no longer rely on the U.S. Congress to adopt legislation to promote the public interest. In the area of environmental protection, this characterization has some basis in reality.
Congress has not updated key environmental legislation in decades. It has failed to do so despite significant changes in the nature of the problems posed by polluting activities, the scientific knowledge about the effects of pollution and available means of curtailing it and the enormous risks to public health that inaction will create.
Congress has never passed a comprehensive bill to address the adverse public health effects and disruption to ecosystems upon which we all depend that stem from climate change. But in a development that somehow largely escaped public notice, Congress recently took an important step toward filling this legislative vacuum. In doing so, it may have created a blueprint for overcoming some of the obstacles that have stymied past efforts to pass climate change legislation.
In August, with relatively little fanfare, President Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act. While the act’s provisions do indeed have the potential to reduce inflation, it also represents the most significant measure Congress has ever adopted to combat climate change. The act’s measures to mitigate climate change have attracted some attention in the press, but what has been largely missing has been an analysis of its potential to deliver important protections against the myriad adverse public health consequences that scientists have linked to climate change. In an article published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, I describe those benefits and the novel policy tools that the Inflation Reduction Act relies on to achieve them.
Read the full op-ed in The Hill.