While some may cry “deja vu,” there’s another growing movement of Republicans urging cooperation on climate change action. And it makes complete sense.
“Conservative” and “Conservation” share the same root. Conserve: to preserve and manage responsibly. By all accounting, environmental conservation should be right up the Republican alley. Russell Kirk, author of American conservatism said,”conservatism is about preserving the Permanent Things. ” Heck, American environmental roots have their foundations in Republican president Teddy Roosevelt who carved out a hundred and fifty national forests, eighteen national monuments, and five national parks.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Rob Sisson, President of ConservAmerica, a conservative group calling for environmental protection. He brought up an interesting perspective which I’d never considered. What is pollution, he said, but a kind of trespassing on another’s property, or on another’s health? Climate change, then, is an ultimate global kind of trespassing. He also brings up the tragic point that 60,000 unborn children suffer methyl mercury poisoning in utero each year as a result of coal-burning power plants.
With that in mind, there seems to be little, ideologically, that would stand between Republicans, climate change action, and renewable energy. It’s part of the Republican history. It fits with the ideology.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that a growing number of Republicans are calling for action on climate change. Earlier this month, four Republicans who served as an EPA Administrator published a piece called A Republican Case for Climate Action in the New York Times. After establishing their conservative street cred, which sadly seems to be a required and standard procedure in this sort of situation, they make clear in no uncertain terms that climate change is in fact a real and urgent issue.
There are powerful market-based solutions to climate change classically favored by conservatives. The EPA administrators and the folks at ConservAmerica talk approvingly of a carbon tax, which in recent memory is something Republicans would have been all over. The EPA administrators say “A market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but that is unachievable in the current political gridlock in Washington.”
Rob Sisson, President of ConservAmerica agrees “If we’re going to tax anything, let’s tax things of which we want less (pollution), and reduce or eliminate taxes on those things of which we want more (income).” But he mirrors what the EPA administrators feel, saying “Before we can even put solutions on the table, we have to first make it safe for Republicans to speak about the problem.”
Right now we’re facing more than intractability in the political atmosphere. It’s much worse than that; a fear of even appearing to believe there’s a problem when it comes to climate change. Sisson talks of making it safe for Republicans to even acknowledge that the planet is warming and that we are the cause. The evidence for climate change at this point is irrefutable and solid. Conservation and responsible environmental stewardship is a classic Republican value. And there are sound, market-based solutions to promote a healthy climate with strong conservative underpinnings. What we’re looking at is not an inherent resistance based on conservative ideology. It’s a contortion of ideology from political entertainers and lobbyists.
Says Sisson “Unfortunately, too many conservatives have bought the narrative put forward by for-profit entertainers and special interests that attacking climate change will cause untold damage to our economy.”