Climate Change Action as a Conservative Issue

RepublicanWhile 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.”


Eric Justian

Eric Justian is a professional writer living near the natural sugar sand beaches and singing sand dunes of Lake Michigan in Muskegon, Michigan. When he's not wrangling his kids or tapping at his computer, he likes to putter in his garden, catch king salmon from the Big Lake, or go pan fishing with his boys.As a successful blogger his main focus has been energy, Great Lakes issues and local food.Eric is a founding member of the West Michgian Jobs Group, a non-profit organization that evolved from a Facebook page called Yest to West Michigan Wind Power which now has over 8000 followers. West Michigan Jobs Group promotes independent businesses and sustainable industries in the West Michigan area. As the Executive Director of that organization he has advocated renewable energy as both a clean energy alternative for Michigan and a new industry with which to diversify our economy and spark Michigan innovation and jobs.

3 responses

  1. “A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy.” ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

    “As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

    “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency.” UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s report “Livestock’s Long Shadow”

    “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains… the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

    “It’s not a requirement to eat animals, we just choose to do it, so it becomes a moral choice and one that is having a huge impact on the planet, using up resources and destroying the biosphere.” ~ James Cameron, movie director, environmentalist and new vegan

  2. Promising to make the weather better with taxes is what ANY politician will do.

    Did Bush fear monger our children with CO2 death threats when science had agreed for 28 years that it only COULD happen not WILL happen? They never agreed it would happen.
    Saying a CO2 climate crisis WILL happen is not scientifically accurate and proves you remaining believers just wanted to watch the world burn like car accident rubber-neckers.
    If you love the planet demand that science put an end to this costly debate to shut down the denier machine by saying it WILL happen after all. What has to happen for science to agree it WILL happen instead of could happen? Not one IPCC report says it or isn’t drowning in “maybes”. Look it up folks, we can’t love a planet with needless CO2 panic
    and neocon-like fear mongering.

    1. It’s happening. The evidence is overwhelming, and those “maybees” in IPCC report are about the details, not the basic scientific consensus that climate change/global warming is happening, and that it is primarily caused by human cause. Self delusion is no way to love a planet, either. It is time to panic. The future is bleak already, and we’re headed for not just tough times, but catastrophe, if we just pretend it ain’t happening. .

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