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The law would 'be a huge step forward in the fight to preserve a livable planet and is one we need to take while we have the chance,' the group Earthjustice said.

Environmental groups are hailing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) as a desperately needed step to address catastrophic climate change. On Friday, three former Environmental Protection Agency administrators who served under Republican and Democratic presidents put out a joint statement in support of the bill.

The bill would cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030, according to environmental advocacy groups. That figure comes close to the Biden administration's goal of cutting greenhouse gases 50% by 2030.

The act would "be a huge step forward in the fight to preserve a livable planet and is one we need to take while we have the chance," according to the environmental law organization Earthjustice.

"We urge the Senate to move swiftly to pass the climate measures in the Inflation Reduction Act — and for the House to follow soon after — so we can keep building toward a more sustainable future," Kris Kuzdas of the Water for Arizona Coalition said in a press release on Wednesday.

The $739 billion legislation is the result of an unexpected agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). On Thursday, the last Democratic holdout, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), said she would support the bill, allowing it to move forward with the votes of every Senate Democrat and no Senate Republicans.

The bill contains key climate provisions. These include multiple investments geared towards decarbonization. In the electric sector, the bill includes some $30 billion in the form of grants and loans for states and utilities to invest in renewables and clean energy.

The bill would also provide tax credits through 2033 for residential solar and geothermal heat pumps, solar investment, wind production, and offshore wind farms.

In transportation, the bill provides up to $4,000 in consumer tax credits for low- and middle-income individuals to purchase used electric vehicles and up to $7,500 for new electric vehicles.

The bill allocates $4.5 billion in rebates for home electrification for low- and middle-income households and allocates a further $4 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development for affordable housing.

Further provisions address cleaning up legacy pollution, some $30 billion in environmental and climate justice block grants to disadvantaged communities, a $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, and resources for public lands and waters.

This winter, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its most dire warning to the planet: 

To avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity and infrastructure, ambitious, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. So far, progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks.

This summer may be the hottest in United States history, according to one metric. The Southwest is struggling with the worst "megadrought" in 1,200 years. Texas is on track for the hottest summer it has ever recorded, threatening to break the 2011 record with more than 90 days above 100 degrees. Last week, dozens of people in St. Louis and Eastern Kentucky were killed as the region saw not one but two 1-in-1,000-year floods.

Arizona is already experiencing dramatically higher temperatures and more humidity. Phoenix was ranked by one study as the second fastest-warming city in the U.S. By 2050, the likelihood of severe summer droughts is expected to triple, and electricity bills will likely increase significantly as residents struggle to stay cool.

Some environmental groups say the Inflation Reduction Act doesn't go far enough to fight the devastating effects of climate change, citing the bill's provisions for new oil and gas leases.

"The deal is indeed a compromise," Earthjustice says in its press release, "that includes objectionable handouts to the fossil fuel industry."

However, on balance, the group says that the bill "would lower barriers to solar access, create good paying jobs, invest in underserved and overburdened communities, and put the country closer to achieving our climate targets."

Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, said the bill is flawed but still necessary.

"We need the tools in this bill to better ensure resiliency in frontline communities, to help clean up our air, and to provide jobs with these clean energy investments," Bahr told the American Independent Foundation. "This is not a perfect bill. There are some significant negative aspects including the harmful oil and gas leasing provisions. On balance, we think it is important that the good in this bill move forward."

The bill, while appearing to have total support from the Senate Democrats, still faces hurdles in the budget reconciliation process — a strategy for avoiding the filibuster. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said Republicans planned to vote on amendments that would make the bill less appealing to Democrats.

"This bill shouldn't pass and become law," Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) said. "It's going to cause a lot of pain for the American people."

More than 1,000 amendments were filed the last time the Senate passed legislation like this through reconciliation, according to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).

Schumer has said that the Senate will likely start voting on the bill on Saturday, with a House vote expected next week.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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A Futurist’s Last Act Was to Transform Chemistry—After Death

“Imagine human beings have this tiny little band where you and I can tune in, and we find that that is less than a millionth of reality,” Buckminster Fuller once said. “Just think of it. This is reality—these are the realities—and you and I can see less than a millionth of reality.” Fuller might best be known today as the architectural designer behind the geodesic dome, but he saw all of his inventions as expressions of a lifelong effort to expand the range of the human mind’s perception of the universe, most of which was invisible to the naked eye.

Fuller met this challenge by developing an elaborate system of geometry, but he was also enthusiastic about the possibilities of scientific instruments. Since the forties, he had marveled at the power of the spectroscope, a device that allowed researchers to analyze matter based on its interactions with radiation. Two years after his death in 1983, it provided the backdrop for the most lasting tribute that he would ever receive—an accidental discovery that would transform the fields of chemistry and nanotechnology forever.

The central player in Fuller’s greatest moment of posthumous glory was Harold W. Kroto, who was born in England in 1939. Kroto studied chemistry at the University of Sheffield, but he seriously contemplated a career in architecture or graphic design. While working at Bell Labs, he made what his wife, Margaret, described as “a kind of pilgrimage” to Fuller’s famous geodesic dome for the United States pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo, and he even thought about writing to Fuller for a job researching “the organized growth of massive urban structures.”

Instead, Kroto went to the University of Sussex to conduct spectroscopic studies of long carbon chains in outer space, which he theorized were generated in the atmospheres of the aging stars known as red giants. In 1984, he saw a chance to test his ideas. At a conference, a microwave spectroscopist named Robert Curl told Kroto about the laser supersonic cluster beam apparatus, a huge machine—located at Rice University in Houston—that had been designed by the physical chemist Richard Smalley to produce aggregates of any given element on demand.

    After a laser vaporized the material, helium blew it into a vacuum chamber, where it cooled into clusters that could be measured by a mass spectrometer. According to Curl, it would work perfectly well with carbon, and by introducing different gases, it could reproduce the conditions inside a red giant to see if the long chains appeared. Curl was especially interested in whether they might be responsible for the diffuse interstellar bands, which were dark lines in astronomical spectra caused by unidentified matter in the space between the stars.

    An enthusiastic Kroto went to meet the team at Rice. Smalley was skeptical of Kroto’s “cockamamie theory,” but he decided to give him a chance. The following summer, they scheduled a second visit, which Smalley still saw as an unwelcome interruption: “I thought Harry was sort of a loose nut,” he admitted, “and I just wanted to get rid of him.” To break the news to his graduate students Jim Heath and Sean O’Brien, he asked jokingly, “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen?” They responded, “Harry’s coming.”

    Their lack of excitement was due to their awareness that similar research had already been conducted at Exxon, which the Houston team attempted to replicate the week before Kroto’s arrival. When they trained the laser on a graphite disk, it worked as expected, but the settings on the computer display led them to overlook a peak for C60, or molecules of sixty carbon atoms. The spike was enormous, but although one member of the group—probably a graduate student named Yuan Liu—made a note of it, no one paid much attention.

    Kroto officially started on September 1, 1985. The first stage of their work was devoted to calibrating the equipment, with helium used as a carrier gas, and when they ran a spectrometric analysis, they noticed the C60 peak. Over the following days, as they introduced hydrogen and nitrogen into the helium stream, pronounced peaks continued to be seen for large clusters with even numbers of carbon atoms. When they increased the backing pressure of the helium, they observed a gigantic spike at sixty atoms, which caught their interest for the first time.

    Under some conditions, C60 was dozens of times more abundant than most of the other clusters, implying that there was something special about the number 60 itself. The absence of reactivity pointed to a closed molecule that lacked dangling bonds, and the discussion soon turned to the possibility of a sphere. Smalley glanced at the others. “Who was that guy who built those domes?”

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