By Larry Howe and Cindy Burbank
Republicans are thawing on climate change — and that’s great progress. But is what they are proposing enough?
We are lifelong conservative voters, and we don’t think so. Take Louisiana Representative Garret Graves, the ranking Republican member of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Many in our EcoRight circles applauded when he was given the lead GOP spot on this committee, particularly given climate disputers were calling for one of their own to get the honors.
But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saw reason. And now, gone are the talking points that assert the climate is changing but we don’t know how much is man-made. Gone are the talking points that point to natural cycles as the cause of the greatest global problem of a generation.
But we wish Graves and others would lose the jabs at overreach by the other side and instead focus on the messaging embraced by the likes of Florida Congressman Francis Rooney and former Congressman Carlos Curbelo, who not only acknowledged climate science but focused less on putting the other side down and more on growing consensus on bipartisan solutions.
At times, it seems Graves is attempting to paint a picture of Republicans having enthusiastically worked on this issue all along when really, they found religion after losing suburban voters (and a majority) in the 2018 election. Newsflash: not too long ago Republicans held the gavels in the House — they sure weren’t using them to call climate hearings to order.
But we are not here to shame. There’s enough of that in politics and hey, people have their own journeys and it’s great to see so many lawmakers coming to the table. We do have some pointers though, on how to more effectively communicate about climate change.
Graves has said the term climate change probably means a hundred different things to a hundred different people. He implies that Republicans don’t know how to educate their base constituency on the real science because it is so controversial. They think it is better to address climate change without mentioning the words climate change.
Come on. It’s 2020. Polls show that Americans are overwhelmingly worried about climate change. Instead of playing semantics games, can we work to demystify it for the remaining few?
Graves and others also share incomplete and misleading information about U.S. emissions reductions, for example, stating that the “U.S. has reduced more emissions over the last 15 years than the next 12 emissions reducing countries combined.” While this may be true, he neglects to include that we have been the largest cumulative emitter since the beginning of the industrial revolution. It’s a bit like saying to get healthy we lost the most weight, e.g. 100 pounds vs someone else who lost only 25 pounds, but omitting that we started at 400 pounds and the other person started at 200 pounds.
CO2 lasts for 100 years or more in the atmosphere. The U.S. bears more responsibility for the current CO2 in the atmosphere than any other country. We have a responsibility to be honest about this, and to be a world leader in turning it around.
While we’re being honest about it, we also need to acknowledge that the U.S. emits about twice the greenhouse gases per capita as China — and many times that for countries in Africa and elsewhere. We need to stop pointing the finger at other countries and step up to our responsibility as a nation — echoing Conservative values of individual responsibility.
The GOP needs to stop dabbling in go-slow small-ball policy steps on climate change. Global climate change is an accumulating problem that only gets worse the longer we take to address it. We’d like to see the GOP really step up to the plate, with a bold small-government approach that takes responsibility and spurs the marketplace into action, while preserving freedom for households and businesses in how best to respond.
What does that look like? It’s a price on carbon, with all the revenue returned to households so that it pays for itself and provides equity during the transition. And it includes a border adjustment to incentivize other countries to follow our lead. It’s simple, it’s transparent, and it unleashes innovation across the economy. And it would be effective — far more powerful than any other proposal.
We know that Republicans in Congress are OK with pricing carbon, because they support it in 45Q complex IRS regulations which use taxpayer funds to incentivize carbon capture. Let’s bypass the picking of winners and losers, and go for the fences with an economy-wide price signal on emissions. It would provide an incentive for not only carbon capture, but for all technologies that reduce and/or absorb emissions.
Larry Howe (Plano, TX, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Cindy Burbank (Warrenton, VA, email@example.com) are lifelong conservatives who embrace free market climate solutions. They volunteer with the organization republicEn.org.