By Tyler Higgins, Furman College Republicans
Sept. 17, in a surprising move, eleven House Republicans agreed to cosponsor a resolution that acknowledges the notion that humans play a causal role in global climate change. Although this resolution is unlikely to gain much traction amongst fellow GOP members leading up to an election year, the move does represent a step in the right direction for a party that needs to proactively address climate change with smart, conservative solutions that balance the needs of a growing economy with the conservation of our natural environment.
Despite claiming in its party platform that “conservation is a conservative value,” the Republican Party has long opposed action on climate change. Many of the party’s elected leaders have publicly denied climate change, and all but two of the GOP presidential candidates, Lindsey Graham and Bobby Jindal, have refused to acknowledge that they will take action if elected.
However, these views increasingly differ from those of the American public. A recent poll by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters found that 68 percent of Republican voters here in South Carolina see climate change as an important issue, and that number is almost assuredly higher in states with more moderate electorates. A wealthy Republican entrepreneur, Jay Faison, is even putting up $175 million of his own money to encourage Republicans to address global warming. This divergence of party policy and public preference leaves the GOP in an untenable position going forward.
Public preference is not the only convincing reason to support climate change policy. A 2014 Pentagon report found that climate change is a “threat multiplier” that may “undermine already-fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively,” leading to an increased frequency of US government interventions to protect our national security interests. The Department of Defense reiterated this stance again in 2015, writing in a new report that climate change could “aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries.”
Climate change represents an opportunity for Republicans to do what they could not do with healthcare: be the party of solutions. Rather than waging reactionary attacks against any and all liberal Democratic plans, the GOP must propose smart solutions that tackle global warming with incentive-based approaches that don’t rely on heavy-handed government regulation.
Here in South Carolina, former Republican Representative Bob Inglis has been spearheading the conservative fight against global warming. Winner of the JFK Library’s Profile in Courage award and dubbed “America’s Best Hope for Near-Term Climate Action” by Slate, Inglis has proposed a comprehensive plan that proposes a tax on carbon emissions that will be offset by cuts to the corporate tax rate, making the plan revenue-neutral. The Inglis plan not only provides a solution to global warming, but it also addresses the uncompetitive corporate tax rates in the U.S., potentially driving economic growth. On November 18 from 7-9 p.m., College Republicans and the Environmental Action Group will host a screening of Inglis’s film “Merchants of Doubt,” followed by a discussion with the former congressman.
Thus, the move by GOP House members to advance a resolution that at least vaguely recognizes the causes and threats of global warming should be welcomed by Republican voters and taken seriously by party leadership. Republicans have the necessary political motivations and at least one conservative solution at hand. Now they must simply act.