Reasons to Be Upbeat

Harvey, congressional gridlock, the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris accord, climate change deniers in high places…. These are just some of the things that can discourage someone who believes we need to take action on climate change.

But there are also reasons to be upbeat:

  • While Congress has a disproportionate number of members who are content to sit on their hands as the climate changes at an alarming pace, the House Climate Solutions Caucus has grown to include 52 members--half of them Republicans.

  • After a bipartisan vote in July left climate language in the annual defense authorization bill, Climate Solutions Caucus Co-Chairman Carlos Curbelo voiced optimism that lawmakers may actually begin to engage earnestly on the subject. "We have a lot of Republicans, even from the deep South, who everyday come to me and say, 'Well, let's talk about this climate change thing and sea level rise,'" Curbelo told a Florida radio station. "There is growing interest, and my hope is that we can build that coalition, that bipartisan coalition, as quickly as possible just so that we can advance common-sense policy solutions."

  • The House Problem Solvers Caucus now includes 43 Republicans and Democrats. Founded by Congressmen Tom Reed (R-NY) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), this caucus hopes to build support for common-sense solutions to climate change, health care, immigration, and other challenges that have stymied Congress.

  • Nine northeastern states agreed recently to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by an additional 30 percent by 2030--on top of the 40 percent reduction achieved since 2009. And California has just strengthened its emission-reduction program.

  • Seven GOP luminaries continue to advocate a carbon fee proposed by the Climate Leadership Council: James A. Baker, III, George P. Shultz, Martin Feldstein, N. Gregory Mankiw, Henry M. Paulson, Jr., Thomas Stephenson and Rob Walton. They call it “a conservative case for a climate solution.”

  • More and more corporate leaders are calling for pricing carbon and other action to counter climate change. Leadership is coming not only from individual CEOs, including some with major oil companies, but from organizations such as the American Sustainable Business Council and Business Forward.

  • The horror of Harvey is a stark lesson in the threats posed by climate change. Harvey cannot be blamed on climate change, but scientists believe that the amount of rain was increased by rising temperatures.

  • Seventy percent of Americans now support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax paired with cutting other taxes (like income taxes), according to a recent survey by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities. Two-thirds of independents and slightly under half of Republicans polled back those policies.

  • The  most plausible option for enacting a carbon fee is a tax reform bill that employs the fee to pay for tax cuts, and there is a growing determination among Republicans to pass such legislation this year. Their eagerness means that they will be more inclined to bargain. Politico’s Nancy Cook had this quote: “People are feeling optimistic because they do not see failure as an option. They’ve put all of their eggs in one basket now, and that basket is tax reform,” said one source familiar with the administration’s tax talks. “The fear of failure on this will cause people to agree with things they may not normally agree to.”

All of this is not to say that it’s time to bet your Tesla on passage of a carbon fee this year. But there are some promising forces at work, and those of us who support such a fee should keep making the case. If an opportunity develops, we must seize it.