In case you haven’t been paying attention, the new administration is working hard to undo previous efforts toward reducing carbon emissions, but is that really what the voters wanted when they cast their vote for President Trump, or is this an unintended consequence?
According to a recent report issued by Yale’s Climate Change Communication, “More than six in ten Trump voters support taxing and/or regulating the pollution that causes global warming.” In fact, the majority of all Americans believe that global warming is happening and support a variety of policies that would reduce carbon emissions. Yet there is a perception that climate change is a partisan issue.
Many of us can think back to a childhood spent in the woods, or a family vacation to see the glaciers, or a fantastic scuba trip to the Great Barrier Reef – it was a childhood without worries that the bark beetles and fires might destroy that beloved forest, or the glaciers might not be there for much longer, or that the coral is bleaching and dying, taking with it much of the beauty that we delighted in. Our children deserve better. It’s time that conservatives take a closer look at the climate change issue and speak up.
Here are just a few of the reasons that conservatives might want to support climate change solutions:
1. Typewriters Or Computers? Fossil Fuels Or Renewable Energy Technologies?
There was a time when typewriters were the tools used to communicate in the written form, but then along came the computer. Initially computers were very expensive and not very useful. The typewriter was a much better tool. Fast forward to today and clearly that is not the case. But that is the way technology works – technology gets better and cheaper. Renewable energy technologies have already improved and lowered in costs and will only continue to do so. In fact, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s chief editor, Angus McCrone, “wind and solar could become the cheapest available option by the 2020s in some countries.” Fossil fuels will not follow this trend, and their cost to our environment and our health just keeps going up.
Climate change is costly. Increasingly severe storms, flooding, rising sea levels, longer and more severe fire seasons - these all are costly disasters and they are increasing every year due to rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. The growth of territories for disease-carrying vectors like mosquitoes and ticks, the increase in allergies and respiratory issues due to poor air quality and rising pollen levels, the increase in water-borne illnesses following flooding, and the mental health costs of disasters― these are just a few of the additional public health costs associated with climate change.
The fossil fuel industry keeps their profits private, but they have socialized the cost to society of using their product, costs that are passed on to all of us while they benefit with huge profits. The fossil fuel industry should be held accountable for the carbon pollution their product emits.
3. Leaders Or Followers?
We are the only nation on this planet that still debates climate change. The rest of the world recognizes the threat climate change presents and is moving away from fossil fuels and into clean energy technologies. They have pivoted to the new energy markets. They are innovating, they are investing and right now they are leading the way with China set to invest $360 billion by 2020. Regardless of one’s views on climate change, the future is renewable energy technologies.
Will we be leaders or followers in the new energy markets? The current administration seems determined to head backwards, to invest more in the typewriters of energy - coal and oil, and let China, India and others invest and innovate in the computers of the energy markets - wind, solar, and other emerging technologies. How can America lead when it is looking backwards and investing in the past?
4. Being Skeptical Can Be A Good Thing
When we first learned that smoking can cause lung cancer, there was a concerted effort by the tobacco industry to sow doubt about that connection. The tobacco companies recognized that they did not have to disprove the connection between their product and harm to the public, they simply needed to cast doubt. So they funded studies, they hired doctors and other experts who said that there was no connection, and they used their very powerful political strength to influence our politicians. Does any of this sound familiar?
We must be skeptical when reading research, whether it agrees with our views or contradicts them. It is vital to think critically and take a closer look: Who is funding the research? What is the background of this researcher? Are there conflicts of interest for either? Is this research peer-reviewed? Do those peers suggest that there are flaws in the way the research was set up?
Have you been inadvertently sharing their misinformation? Check out ten of the most common climate change myths and why they are myths. When science suggests that an industry may cause harm (97% of climate scientists are convinced by the evidence that human-caused global warming is happening right now), there will be pushback from that industry. Perhaps there is genuine doubt on their part about the science, but it would be naïve to think there is no temptation to sow doubt when an industry stands to lose trillions of dollars. The longer we doubt, the longer we take to pivot away from fossil fuels, and the longer fossil fuels are still worth trillions of dollars.
5. “But Moving Away From Fossil Fuels Will Hurt the Economy and Cost Us Jobs,” The Argument Goes. But Will It?
The trouble with this story is that states like California and provinces in countries like Canada that have chosen to levee carbon fees and other measures to reduce carbon pollution have actually seen their economies and job markets grow. Some very well-regarded conservative Republican leaders, two of them formerly serving as both Republican Secretaries of State and Secretaries of the Treasury, George Shultz and James Baker, have recently released a report advocating for a carbon fee and dividend. They are conservative economists saying that reducing carbon and pivoting away from fossil fuels will not hurt our economy and in fact will strengthen our economy and protect our national security.
6. Pro-Life But Not Pro-climate?
When there is drought, flooding, fires, extreme storms, water and food scarcity and forced migrations, who is most at risk? If a child is dying, do we only care if it is an American child? For most who are pro-life, it means caring about children at every stage, whether they are still in the womb, ready for kindergarten, or driving for the first time. It means a love for children whether they speak our language, share our skin color, or worship the same God. Children are precious beings and worthy of our protection.
Climate change is the greatest public health threat we are facing, and it is children who will shoulder the worst effects. Those who have spent their lives speaking on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves should recognize that climate change must be addressed quickly to save the lives of children across our globe. Pro-life must also mean pro-climate.
7. “Conservative” Does Not Mean “Gambler”
When 97 of 100 doctors tell you that you have cancer and should get treatment, the conservative response is to get treatment. When 97 out of 100 climate scientists say we have a problem and we must address it urgently, the conservative response should be to find solutions and to do so urgently.
Conservatives want strong national security and value the knowledge of our military branches. These military experts say climate change will affect military operations, our bases, and will be a threat multiplier. It is not conservative to gamble on so many scientists and military experts being wrong. It is not conservative to risk our national security and to gamble with our children’s very future.
Conservative Stewardship And Solutions
It is conservative to value our role as stewards of this amazing creation and to take action to protect it. Katherine Hayhoe straddles the two roles of being an evangelical Christian and a climate scientist and speaks to why science and her faith are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps it is time to reflect on our personal responsibility to protect what is in our care and to look after those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
There are solutions that are good for the climate, good for the economy, good for jobs, and good for our national security. There is plenty of room for conservatives at the climate solutions table. It’s time to join this conversation and it’s time to start working on solutions.
7 Things You Can Do
1) Call your U.S. representative, identify yourself as a conservative and let them know that you’re concerned about climate change and would like them to find conservative-based climate solutions.
3) Ask your U.S. representative to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which is made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
5) Start talking with your conservative friends and family about climate change to help eliminate the idea that this is a political problem rather than a public health problem that affects all of us.
6) Be skeptical when you are reading about climate change – don’t help to spread misinformation.
7) Join one of the organizations that is working on nonpartisan solutions for climate change and is looking for conservative voices like Citizens’ Climate Lobby.