America's Coming Conservative Climate Offensive
Earlier this year, Republicans made a subtle but significant shift on climate change. Rather than doubling down on the argument that man-made CO2 emissions pose zero risk, the GOP effectively decided it is a risk worth mitigating. In his State of the Union address, President Trump proposed planting a trillion trees. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy soon followed by announcing a series of proposals that treat carbon reduction as a worthy goal.
This shift could not have come soon enough. Among younger Americans, the debate about climate change is essentially over. Polls consistently show that more than two-thirds of Americans believe humans are contributing to global warming with younger generations expressing the most concern.
Republicans, not just Democrats, are increasingly calling for action. According to a recent Pew study, a majority of conservative Republicans (53 percent) believe human activity is making some contribution to warming. While only 31 percent of Republican baby boomers believe the government is doing too little to fight climate change, this figure jumps to 52 percent for Republicans under the age of 39.
Conservatives need to face this challenge head-on. Doing anything less puts the future of capitalism and our free enterprise system at risk.
That’s why we’re fighting to promote solutions through our organization, the Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions (C3 Solutions), which includes former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum as a founding advisor. The answer is not to convince conservatives to become moderates, or to approach Al Gore with bended knee, but instead raise a banner of bold colors in a debate dominated by the drab gray of socialism. It is time for conservatives to remind Republicans that the answer may be for the government to do less so that the private sector can do more.
Ceding this debate to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party would be an enormous strategic mistake. The “Green New Deal’s” wildly unrealistic proposals to end carbon emissions in a decade would lead to economic deforestation and terrible pain for middle-and lower-income families. The left’s very costly virtue signaling (with estimates ranging from $52 - $93 trillion) would do almost nothing to improve the global climate. As Nick Loris at The Heritage Foundation notes, “[T]he U.S. could cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 100 percent, and it would not make a discernible difference in global warming.”
Conservatives have the opportunity to offer effective, meaningful, and fiscally responsible policies that can be enacted right now to mitigate the effects of climate change. The free enterprise system is already leading the way. No technology has done more to reduce carbon emissions in the last 15 years than fracking and more natural gas. We need a fracking revolution across all energy sectors.
To get there, we need to double-down on investing in energy innovation and efforts to lower barriers while confronting deficit denial – Washington’s irrational aversion to setting priorities and cutting wasteful spending.
Take the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This 50-year law has not kept up with innovation. In its current state, NEPA red tape slows down much-needed infrastructure improvements an average of 4.5 years and wastes millions of public and private dollars, despite the law claiming the entire process should take less than one year. NEPA-mandated bureaucracy makes much-needed environmental projects like building more nuclear power plants almost unattainable, despite their proven positive impact on our climate.
Additionally, the government has allowed wasteful programs to persist that are worsening the effects of climate change. The National Flood Insurance Program, still tens of billions in debt, should be phased out so that it no longer encourages people to live in flood-prone areas, charging taxpayers to rebuild the same homes over and over again.
If we reduce unnecessary regulations like NEPA and eliminate wasteful programs like the National Flood Insurance Program, then we can invest in innovation and critical infrastructure upgrades without breaking taxpayers’ backs.
The issue of climate change comes down to a simple choice. If the engine of capitalism needs a tune-up, you can either pour sand in the tank or you can make it more efficient.
History shows that free societies have the capacity to self-correct when it comes to the environment. Industrialization led to clean technologies that produce no carbon. It is important to remember that during the Soviet era, the iconic line of demarcation between the East and West was not just the Berlin Wall but a line of soot.
Free economies tend to be clean economies. Conservative solutions make it so.
Drew Bond and John Hart are the co-founders of C3 Solutions. Bond served as Chief of Staff at The Heritage Foundation under Ed Feulner. Hart served as Communications Director for U.S. Senator Tom Coburn.