GOP’s Own Goal on Climate Change
August 23, 2016
The story of this election is that the GOP’s elaborate message control apparatus has so insulated it’s faithful from actual data and fact – that they’ve split off in their own delusional, unmoored reality, and are dragging the party with them into a woodchipper.
The Party’s stand on climate change is a crime for which the consequences have only just begun to be felt.
If you think the GOP has trouble with millennials now, just wait.
Many young conservatives are trying to be optimistic when it comes to climate and the Republican Party, as it doesn’t seem there’s anywhere to go but up. “One of the unique gifts of the Christian community is hope, the unshakable belief that God is faithful to his promises,” says Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.
Very few people in their party are talking about climate change during this election cycle — or at all — but there are plenty of younger conservatives who are passionate about this issue and want their leaders to pay attention. And if they don’t, these young people are counting down the days until people their age can be the ones making these decisions. “Maybe this is the young college student in me,” says Andy Rodriguez, a Republican senior at the University of South Florida who went to the National Climate Leadership Summit in June, “but once the politicians that we know today grow old and are out of office, and when the people my age start to fill Congress, I’d like to think that Congress would deal with solutions.”
In 2014, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that “roughly six in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents under age 50 think the government should limit greenhouse gases even if it causes a $20 increase in their monthly bill.” A Monmouth poll from December found that 75 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 think the government should be doing more to prevent climate change. On top of that, groups that cater to conservative climate-caring types have been proliferating as Earth keeps breaking temperature records. There is Meyaard-Schaap’s aforementioned Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, which tries to get politicians and faith leaders to think about climate change as a moral issue. There are Young Conservatives for Energy Reform and republicEN, which advocate that being conscious of the environment is just economically smart. They definitely aren’t in total agreement with the more progressive and familiar environmental groups out there when it comes to how to solve, or at least mitigate, climate change, favoring free markets and local solutions with no regulations, but they are in firm agreement on the science and the fact that they want their party to acknowledge that this problem exists in the first place.
And just like there’s an unknown, ominous time limit for dealing with climate change, Republicans are running out of time to convince young voters that there’s a place for them in the GOP. A McClatchy poll from earlier this month had Trump in fourth place — behind two third-party candidates — with voters under 30. Climate change, along with the party’s positions on social issues — not to mention the existence of Trump — work together to make winning over people who just want to agree with Republicans on financial issues difficult. “You couldn’t pay me to vote for Donald Trump,” Rodriguez, who voted for Marco Rubio, says. “I’m not happy with my choices.”
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said last month, “Ultimately, there’s going to be a person in a garage somewhere that’s going to come up with a disruptive technology that’s going to solve these problems, and I think markets need to be respected in this regard.”
Another GOP candidate, Carly Fiorina, offered a similar observation: “I think the answer to this problem is innovation, not regulation.”
It’s a nuanced position. In one breath they acknowledge there’s a problem that we must solve and attack the regulatory solution currently leaving the station. There’s just one problem: Suggesting that innovation without market reform will solve climate change is more wishful thinking than a serious policy proposal.
The truth is that we cannot afford to wait for “a person in a garage” to come up with a magic bullet. The technologies that can wean society off polluting fuels already exist. What we need is the economic incentive to bring those technologies to scale.
To be sure, there are technologies yet to be invented that will have a game-changing impact on our ability to undo the damage accrued from burning fossil fuels the past two centuries. But investors are more likely to fund the research and development for these new technologies if they are assured a market that values them and thus a reasonable return on their investment.
What would give them such assurance? A predictable, steadily rising fee on carbon pollution.
In an interview, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson suggested a carbon tax to deal with climate change – which he agrees is happening.
SM: If I could shift gears briefly, although it’s not a brief topic. What’s your position on global warming and climate change, and what’s your position on the Paris Accord?
GJ: Well, that it does exist and that it is man-caused. I think a great example of the free market at work in addressing carbon emission — we’re all demanding less carbon emission — is the coal industry. Obama has not brought an end to the coal industry. The free market has brought an end to the coal industry. The free market with its pricing of coal right now, and I didn’t look at the paper before I walked in, but I lost a whole lot of money in coal. I didn’t think there was any way that coal was going to actually be bankrupted. But it has been bankrupted.
The price of coal today is $9. Well, all the marginal coal that costs $11 to mine, you can’t make that up with volume. So all the marginal coal assets are gone. So what’s left, and right now we’ve got 37% of the grid is coal. Well, all of that coal is coming from Wyoming — and I don’t want to say all of it. The coal that’s easy to mine, that actually can be mined at $8.25, where a profit can be made — that’s what’s fueling the 37% load. But nobody is building a new coal plant when natural gas is much cheaper than even the low point of coal right now. Effectively, coal is bankrupt. There’s not going to be any new coal plants built. It’s not going to happen given what I think is the free market.
I’m open also to the notion of a carbon tax. That it does have an impact, that it ends up being revenue-neutral. I’m not looking at this as a revenue generator, as much as there are costs associated with, there are health and safety issues with carbon.
SM: There’s a big argument to be made that one of the main reasons the price of coal fell through the floor is regulatory actions and requirements on what you do when you burn it. Which reduce the demand.
GJ: Well, no! I mean, that argument would say that has driven the price of coal to its low level. But it’s low level today is even lower today for natural gas than the low level that you could argue it’s been driven to. That argument, you know — just think about it for a second.
SM: I have.
JH: On the revenue-neutral carbon tax, would you want that to be 100% rebated to the public, or would you want it to be substituted for other forms of taxes?
GJ: You know, I have really just come on board with recognizing that there are a lot of people that are embracing this, that I value their opinion. So, I am not up to speed on this like I will be. But what I’ve just said is something that I have really just come to, or recognized.