In college campuses across America, young Republicans like myself are finding it hard to accept that the elders in our party trend toward indifferent or inactive on the issue of climate change. The good news is, someday we will be the leaders of this party. The bad news is, in the meantime, the impacts grow worse and worse.
It’s a myth that all young people flock liberal. Regardless of age, we are a party concerned about national security and economic growth. We are a party with a strong legacy of conservation. But for whatever political reason, climate change has grown into a hot button, partisan issue. While our elected representatives try to outdo each other with claims that there isn’t enough data, or my personal favorite, “the climate has always been changing,” our party loses a prime opportunity to lead. And the long-term prosperity of our country is in jeopardy.
Red state or blue state, young or old, we all should be concerned about the current state of the environment. After all, caring for our natural resources isn’t just about hugging trees. While some still question the existence of a climate problem, national security leaders aren’t willing to hedge against risk. Secretary of Defense General James Mattis has called climate change “a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response.” For those of us who may want to hold office someday, his position is refreshing, though we need more than words. The issue calls for action.
The controversy shouldn’t be surrounding the existence of climate change, but rather a robust debate on the political solutions to the problems at hand. As an advocate of the free market and capitalistic ventures, I believe that there are solutions to combating climate change that are fundamentally based in conservative principles. Think of it this way: polluters don’t pay for the cost of dumping carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The costs of carbon emissions are not reflected in the prices we pay on our utilities and gasoline bills or the goods we buy. We pollute for free.
For several years, politicians and economists on both sides of the political spectrum have advocated for a carbon tax under which the cost of the carbon emissions produced would be reflected in the price of the good or service. While various iterations of this idea exist, as a proponent of small government, I prefer the idea of rebating the tax revenue back to the taxpayer — in the form of a monthly dividend — or having it offset the elimination of an onerous tax provision such as the payroll tax. Over time this tax would very slowly but steadily increase to promote the usage of clean energy resources and create a more free energy market in the United States. In addition to creating a more open and free energy industry, a carefully crafted carbon tax would eliminate the need for further unnecessary and detrimental regulatory efforts.
At a recent event entitled “Conservative Solutions to Climate Change,” hosted on the campus of Concordia College, I learned about the nonprofit ecoright organization RepublicEN.org. RepublicEN.org’s primary emphasis is aligning conservatives — in particular, young ones like me — to act appropriately and quickly on the issue of climate change. At our event we spoke with a number of students, faculty and concerned members of the community, many of whom self-described as fiscally conservative religious centrists.
The new and rising generation of voters want to vote for a party who embraces climate change action. It is inherently conservative to support market enterprise, reduce regulatory action, and conserve and preserve our natural environment. Of course the word “tax” is bound to make some apprehensive, but what we need to keep in mind is that this tax is revenue free. The state and federal government won’t see a dime, but everyday Americans will reap the benefits.
As a young conservative with hopes of attending law school this fall, I can’t think of a more pressing or urgent issue facing our country and world than climate change. But in order for the GOP to become attractive to my generation, there must be a shift in perception of climate change politics. It is through climate action that the GOP can once again thrive and best represent the needs and will of the people. I urge my fellow conservatives to not take light to this issue, but rather get involved and advocate for a future of scientific recognition and action. Conservatives of all ages hold to power to developing practical and realistic solutions.