The Path to Climate Solutions for this Lifelong Conservative and Native Texan (part 1 of 3)

Larry Howe
6 min readApr 9, 2020

This is part one of a three part series on my path to climate solutions. tinyurl.com/LHClimateJourney

By sharing my story, I hope that it might help others find and share their own path to bipartisan climate solutions. We don’t need Republican climate solutions. We don’t need Democratic climate solutions. We need BIPARTISAN climate solutions that will drive global emissions reductions to net zero by 2050.

While this essay is a bit lengthy, I wanted to incorporate all the key points and reasons that led me to where I am today. I have included many embedded links to provide references I found useful along the way. Here is the outline of my journey:

In part 1, I will provide a bit of background on my journey and some thoughts about the great benefits of harnessing energy from burning fossil fuels, which have now led to too much of a good thing.

In part 2, I will share my research on what efficient and effective climate solutions are available and a closer look at the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019

In part 3, I will consider some typical questions about the recommended solutions and discuss why I am optimistic for the future.

A BIT OF BACKGROUND

I am a lifelong conservative. And almost all of the time, a Republican voter. What does that mean to me? It means I believe in the rule of law, private property rights, market economies and solutions, a strong national defense, and limited government.

I haven’t seen Al Gore’s 2006 movie documentary “Inconvenient truth”. I have however watched, with a good friend, the 2007 movie, “The Great Global Warming Swindle”. Together we thought it presented compelling data and facts that our climate is OK and burning fossil fuels is not harming it. However, being an engineer, I dug deeper. Over time, the more I researched, the more I discovered most everything claimed in “The Great Global Warming Swindle” was misleading and false. Our climate is not okay.

The scientific evidence is clear, the earth is getting warmer. This is a serious problem that affects all of us. It is throwing many of our ecosystems out of balance. The main culprit is the accumulation of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels which stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. However there is good news because we know what needs to be done to address the root cause of the problem. At this point, the most sensible approach to re-stabilize our climate is large reductions in future CO2 emissions. We now have the technology. We have the know-how.

So why then are there still some seemly rational voices refuting the compelling scientific research and evidence of human-caused global warming? It is natural that entrenched incumbent business interests might be part of these voices, but this seemed like more. I researched and read some more.

I found the book and documentary “Merchants of Doubt” (book, documentary film, 1 minute-excerpt) which answered the question for me. It described the “merchants of doubt” methodology which uses a disinformation campaign approach to show that the growing scientific evidence on human-caused climate risks did not have to be refuted or proven wrong, but just countered by sowing seeds of doubt about it. For example, the methodology espoused claims and statements like:

  • “Well, we aren’t 100% sure yet”;
  • “We need to take more time to do more research”;
  • “We shouldn’t act until we are 100% sure”;
  • “OK it’s real, but the impacts aren’t that bad…”.

It then adds attacks on researchers claiming “it’s just a money grab”. These are the same techniques that have been successful in the past in slowing down efforts to develop solutions for other real human-caused issues — such as acid rain, the ozone hole, and smoking risks. And now they are being deployed on the science of human-caused global warming.

Climate Science references I have found to be useful:

  1. A Concise Starter to Understanding the Basic Science of Global Warming
  2. The World’s Littlest Book on Climate: 10 Facts in 10 Minutes about CO2, only about 20 pages, added to essay Dec 4, 2020, free download versions available here
  3. A Global Warming Primer, Answering Your Questions About The Science, the Consequences, and the Solutions, about 100 pages, added to essay Jun 21, 2023, available free online here
  4. NASA — Climate Change — How Do We Know?
  5. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change, 2nd edition
  6. Global Warming & Climate Change Myths, Skeptical Science, skepticalscience.com/argument.php

GREAT BENEFITS, BUT MAYBE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

Harnessing energy from various fuels over time has advanced our society greatly. While the fuel mix has varied over these long periods of time, over the last 100+ years, most of the energy we have harnessed has been from burning fossil fuels. I am grateful and very appreciative of all the great benefits this has brought us. As our society continues to advance, we continue to increase our understanding of earth systems around us. Through scientific research and evidence we have found there are growing side effects of pollution and a warming planet from burning fossil fuels.

Maybe we could consider it this way. What worked well when there were one billion people on our planet burning fossil fuels to harness energy, doesn’t work well when there are 7+ billion people on our planet burning fossil fuels to harness energy.

Fortunately, today we have available innovative energy solutions to which we can transition that do not have these negative side effects. We just need to identify and implement the policies that will enable market based solutions to accelerate this transition.

When our first grandchild was born, the growing side effects of 7+ billion people burning fossil fuels were becoming more and more apparent. We’re using our atmosphere as a free trash dump in the sky, and our grand-kids are at risk of inheriting a much less livable planet. If we don’t change course, their world will be much hotter, with more extreme and dangerous weather.

We conservatives fashion ourselves at being “good at money”, but our broad inaction and our “kicking the can down the road” approach on climate risks is proving otherwise. We conservatives sometime complain about too much “government in our lives” but inaction on climate change will only result in MORE government in our lives.

Like many conservatives and capitalists, I’m wary of anything that might require a lot of government intervention. I wondered how others with similar concerns felt about this issue. Were they concerned? I looked to identify trusted sources and messengers that I felt had similar conservative and market economy views. I found former South Carolina Republican Congressman Bob Inglis and former CATO Institute Vice President and economist, Jerry Taylor. In turn, these sources lead me to expert climate scientist and evangelical Christian Katharine Hayoe. And from business and industry, I was grateful to discover the capitalist and radical industrialist, Ray Anderson. Additionally, I found this book, Caring for Creation, to be a great resource for conservative Christians. And even more recently, Francis Rooney, former Florida Republican Congressman and U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

Most importantly, it has become apparent to me that the answer lies in bipartisan discussions and solutions. It is a tragedy of our time that this important issue has become so politically polarized in the United States. We must come together to act because the cost of inaction is no longer tolerable. Additionally we must understand the impacts to our national and global security are real and must be addressed.

Part 2 of this essay is available here.

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Larry Howe

Lifelong conservative. Embraces free market climate solutions. Volunteers with republicEn.org and Citizens Climate Lobby Conservative Caucus