The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Inflation Reduction Act won’t reduce inflation. Or climate change.

President Biden shakes hands with Sen. Joe Manchin III after signing the Inflation Reduction Act on Aug. 16. (Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg)

Just 1 in 4 Americans believe that President Biden’s so-called Inflation Reduction Act will actually reduce inflation, while 71 percent say the law will either have no impact or make things worse. The majority is right to be skeptical. The nonpartisan Penn Wharton Budget Model found that the bill’s effect on inflation will be “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

This is not surprising. The real purpose of the bill is not to reduce inflation but to reduce climate change. Fully 85 percent of the law’s spending goes toward climate and clean energy. So, what will the bill’s effect be on the climate?

Answer: Statistically indistinguishable from zero.

Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and author of the book “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet,” did a little digging to see how much Biden’s law will affect global temperatures. He took the energy and climate analytics firm Rhodium Group’s estimate of how much the law will reduce average greenhouse-gas emissions, compared it with the reduction in emissions under current U.S. policy — and found that the act will reduce emissions by an additional 1.7 billion tons by 2030. Sound like a lot? Not really. According to the United Nation’s climate model, Lomborg says, that will reduce the rise in global temperature by a grand total of … 0.0009 degrees. That’s next to nothing.

Of course, this is the most pessimistic estimate. It assumes that the law produces no more emissions reductions after 2030, when its funding expires. But what if we take the most optimistic view and assume that the emissions reductions from the law continue every year for the next 70-plus years, until the end of the century? Then, Lomborg says, the total reduction in emissions would be 37.5 billion tons, which would reduce the growth in global temperatures by 2100 by a whopping … 0.028 degrees.

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In other words, the law’s impact on global temperatures — just like its impact on inflation — will be virtually nonexistent.

Here’s the deep, dark secret: The costs of climate policies often vastly outweigh their benefits. Even if Democrats had passed the left’s entire Green New Deal — with World War II levels of government climate spending — it still would not put a dent in global temperatures. “Most people don’t appreciate how enormous cuts are needed to make substantial temperature reductions,” Lomborg tells me. “Even if the U.S. went entirely net-zero today and for the rest of the century — an almost unfathomably costly policy — it would reduce global temperatures in 2100 by just 0.3°F.”

Of course, that’s not what Democrats are telling their climate-obsessed base. Biden boasts that the law he signed is “the biggest step forward on climate ever,” while the patron saint of the climate movement, former vice president Al Gore, praised it as “a critical turning point in our struggle to confront the climate crisis.”

The irony is that Democrats thought they were pulling a fast one on ordinary Americans, just 1 percent of whom believe that climate change is the most important issue facing the country. They thought that by calling the bill the “Inflation Reduction Act,” they could hoodwink the country into believing that the bill is designed to address one of their biggest concerns, rather than the biggest concern of climate activists.

But it turns out the joke is on them. The bill does no more to reduce global temperatures than it does to reduce inflation. Instead, it’s a $369 billion exercise in virtue signaling, wasteful spending and base mobilization in advance of the 2022 midterms.

The difference is, most of us will not live to 2100 to see the bill’s failure to reduce global temperatures. But Americans will live to see the bill’s failure to reduce inflation in time to make Democrats pay a price at the polls.