George Gemelas & Isaiah Mears: GOP should embrace smart climate-change solutions

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint

Sen. Mike Braun, a Republican from Indiana, has recently teamed up with Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, to launch the first-ever bipartisan Senate caucus focused on solving climate change. As young conservatives, we think this puts the country on the right track for two reasons.

First, the politics are promising. A Republican senator from the heartland collaborating with a Democratic senator from the East Coast defies the long-standing political polarization that has stalled progress on this issue. By working together, Braun and Coons might be out of step with many of their Senate colleagues, but they are in sync with the American public: 80% of voters say it is important for a national climate policy to be bipartisan, according to a recent poll from Luntz Global.

For young conservatives, Braun’s leadership is particularly heartening. Some 58% of Republicans under 40 have grown more concerned about climate risks—the same proportion as voters overall—according to the same Luntz Group poll. On our own college campuses, we’ve seen how the GOP’s record on climate has hurt recruitment to College Republican clubs. Some students won’t even consider looking at the party because of it.

This generational shift is starting to seep in with GOP leaders. In an interview last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said Republicans “should be a little nervous” because, without a climate agenda, they risk losing young voters. Braun’s stepping forward has created the opportunity for both parties to be on the right side of history.

Second, the policy trajectory is encouraging. The two senators have already identified types of solutions that, if done right, could actually solve the climate problem.

The most important that they’ve listed is “economic incentives.” To solve climate change, we need to unleash the full innovative potential of the American business sector. Without clear market signals, we can’t rev America’s economic engine.

Basic economics teaches us that the most powerful tool to address climate change is a price on carbon pollution. It is the most direct and efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. On this, the economics profession is nearly unanimous.

The core idea—pricing pollution—is a strategy pulled from the GOP’s legacy of environmental leadership. President H.W. Bush solved one of the greatest American environmental crises of the 20th century, acid rain, by pricing sulfur dioxide. The initiative ushered in innovation and is considered a success: It achieved its goals ahead of schedule and under budget.

If Republicans don’t offer solutions that work, specifically market-based solutions like carbon pricing, the GOP will fail to build credibility on the issue and risks losing a whole generation of younger voters.

Luckily, a solution already exists, and we are proud to be leading young conservatives to advance it. It’s a sensible, step-by-step carbon pricing plan called carbon dividends.

This plan is backed by leading American businesses, the GOP’s top economists and President Ronald Reagan’s right-hand men. It would solve the problem—cutting U.S. emissions in half by 2035—while streamlining burdensome regulations, giving businesses the flexibility to innovate the next generation of clean technologies.

We hear from Republican leaders and college Republicans across the country that we need an innovation-based approach to solve the climate challenge. This solution would harness the full power of the market and unleash innovation across the economy. Braun and Coons should consider it.•

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Gemelas is executive vice president of Students for Carbon Dividends and Mears is chairman of the Indiana Federation of College Republicans.

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2 thoughts on “George Gemelas & Isaiah Mears: GOP should embrace smart climate-change solutions

  1. When the rest of the world get to the standards the United States has already set, then we can discuss carbon pricing. But to send the US economy into a tail spin for something that we light years ahead of the rest of the world is short sighted. If the young conservatives are concerned about participation in politics, lets discuss the real environmental crisis and that is a 23 trillion dollar debt. If you believe that the 23 trillion dollar debt does not effect the environment, wait until it collapses. Survival will be all that anyone cares about and carbon pricing will neither help this debt or will anyone care when they are jobless and hungry. The under 40 crowd has had this environmental propaganda jammed in their brains. But when you look at the long term prognosis environmentalist don’t care about the environment, they are concerned about wealth transfer. Carbon pricing is wealth transfer and as young conservatives you should know that wealth transfer is not good conservation of the capitalist economics. Without manipulated data and grants for scientist to prove climate change this would not have made it to the college curriculum.

  2. Steve’s comments are wrong on multiple levels beginning with the U.S. standards on GHG emissions. The facts are that U.S. is by far the historical leader in GHG emissions and the only country not participating in the Paris Climate Agreement. Independent ratings classify our emissions policy as “critically insufficient”. We are joined there with just a few other countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Perhaps he meant India, who is on track to meet its share of the 2 degree goal. The statement about manipulated data is equally wrong, since climate change is one of the most researched, documented, and peer reviewed topics of the last couple decades. Statements to contrary should make even the most ardent conspiracy theorist blush. Lastly, carbon pricing has been studied and contrary to his opinion, found to be beneficial to the economy, especially if the fees are returned to households. Recent congressional testimony by economists on H.R. 763 reiterates this finding. It’s great to see this young conservative group take the earth’s climate seriously, they’re the ones with the most to lose if we don’t.

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