Republicans Turn Up the Heat on Climate

More Republicans and voices typically considered authoritative in conservative circles are becoming vocal, acknowledging that man-made climate change is occurring and there is something we need to do about it.

After much anticipation, Pope Francis issued his long waited encyclical. The Pope describes the crisis in detail calling for swift and immediate action to combat climate change. He evokes the teachings of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Benedict of Norcia, and his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, calling on humanity to recognize our multi-purpose roles as stewards and protectors of the environment and also threats to creation. It is a complex message that recognizes that working and communing with the world around us is “part of the meaning of life on this earth,” it challenges us to find ways to combat climate change while protecting employment.

In the lead up to the encyclical’s release, longtime acknowledger of man’s effect on climate, Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, mentioned climate change during his announcement to enter the presidential campaign on Monday, June 1. Senator Graham expressed his concern that the Republican Party needs to have a plan that, like our own, tackles climate change and benefits the economy.

Also just this week, the Weather Channel launched an online series, “The Climate 25,” posting messages recorded by what they call “[25 of the] smartest voices on climate, security, energy and peace.” These “voices” include liberals and conservatives. They feature former governmental leaders including former Republican governor of New Jersey and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator under President George W. Bush, Christine Todd Whitman; former George W. Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson; EPA Administrator under George H.W. Bush, William K Reilly; former South Carolina congressman, Bob Inglis; several retired generals, a retired admiral and a former CIA Director. The Republican voices provide their own individual  takes on climate change, however, all are in agreement: climate change is real and we need to address it more aggressively. Both Whitman and Reilly remind viewers that climate change policies were first introduced by the Republican Party and Reilly says he hopes to see “Republicans play more of a constructive role in our climate.”

One of the fears Republicans have for addressing climate change is a potential adverse effect on the economy, however, as Paulson says, not acting now on climate change is a “massive economic risk.” He argues that the impact form a potential increase in natural disasters will be more costly when responding after the fact. Former Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman echoes that, “You can’t say environmental regulation automatically causes the economy to stop. It doesn’t - it’s the wrong way to frame the issue.” A good example of this point is fuel efficiency standards. They not only made cars more efficient, they helped grow our economy during an era of stagnant growth.

Our way of answering the Pope’s call for more aggressive action addressing climate change puts a price on carbon, uses revenue generated to reduce taxes on businesses, refunds the rest to low-and-middle income individuals — the net result of which spurs economic and thus employment growth. We call this concept, “carbon-funded tax cuts.” This concept is not only effective in combatting climate change, it will stimulate the economy, and help reduce “social costs” stemming from climate change such as effects to individuals health like asthma. With “carbon-funded tax cuts” the U.S. can lead the way to a cleaner environment while enhancing our economy.