Republicans for sustainability. Yes, really.

by Justin McCartney

There is no reason that the security and sustainability of our common home should ever be a partisan policy issue. Yet in this bitter political climate, the issue has become consumed in the policy fights between our two major political parties.

The obligation to protect environmental security belongs to Americans of every party. If we are not together in fighting the causes of climate change, and united as a planet in weathering its already harmful effects, we cannot hope to successfully protect it.

There are indeed prominent Republicans who have acknowledged that the climate is changing due to human activity, and have argued that we need to take steps to reduce the substantial risks that this is posing to our health, our economy, our security, and our way of life. Henry Paulson and Gregory Mankiw, Treasury Secretary and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in George W. Bush’s administration, respectively, have called for a revenue-neutral carbon tax to address climate change. After all, what could be more consistent with a free market approach than taxing something that is bad for us, like carbon, rather than something that is good for us, like income? The free market economist Milton Freedman called for exactly this kind of tax on “negative externalities,” or by-products of economic production and consumption that impose costs on others in society.

Similarly, Republican former Congressman from South Carolina Bob Inglis has formed an organization to promote responsible climate policies like a carbon tax that are consistent with conservative principles of true to conservative principles of limited government, accountability, reasonable risk-avoidance, and free enterprise. In the Senate, Senators Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins have acknowledged that climate change is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Yet there is a disconnect between these Republican climate leaders and many of their fellow party members in Congress. A March 2016 Gallup poll found that 65% of American believe that increases in the Earth’s temperature are due to human activity. However, 63% of Americans are represented by a member of Congress who denies the reality of climate change — a total of 182 members of Congress are climate deniers. These individuals have received $80,453,861 from coal, oil, and gas companies (check out this article from ThinkProgress for more information on the fossil fuel lobby and an interactive state-by-state breakdown). There is a disconnect between our Congressional representatives and the American people.

Climate change denial is simply not an issue in other countries, and does not have to be in ours. The appointment of Myron Ebell could tragically reverse years of critical work on environmental security. Right now, our mission is to do everything in our power to convince this new administration of that fact.

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