Oped: Climate policy can benefit economy

Jon Clark, Citizens' Climate Lobby

“Mounting evidence of climate change is growing too strong to ignore.” These are the words released in a paper by the Climate Leadership Council. The authors consist of eight very prominent conservatives including two former Secretaries of State, three former Secretaries of Treasury, the former Chairman of Wal-Mart, and two former Chairmen’s of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors.

Jon Clark

The paper goes on to say: “While the extent to which climate change is due to man-made causes can be questioned, the risks associated with future warming are too big and should be hedged. At least we need an insurance policy. For too long, many Republicans have looked the other way, forfeiting the policy initiative to those who favor growth-inhibiting command-and-control regulations, and fostering a needless climate divide between the GOP and the scientific, business, military, religious, civic and international mainstream. Now that the Republican Party controls the White House and Congress, it has the opportunity and responsibility to promote a climate plan that showcases the full power of enduring conservative convictions.  Any climate solution should be based on sound economic analysis and embody the principles of free markets and limited government.”

It’s exciting news that conservatives are now proposing their own plan to address climate change. The Climate Leadership Council calls it “The Carbon Dividend Plan.”   To be clear, this plan is somewhat different from Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s proposed solution, even so, these conservatives are showing leadership by proposing their own solution. The Climate Leadership Council’s plan foundation rests on four basic pillars:

  • A gradually increasing carbon tax. The council proposes a $40/ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions.  A recent Treasury Department analysis estimates a $49/ton tax on emissions would surpass the goal the United States pledged in the Paris Climate Accord last year.
  • Carbon dividends for all Americans. According to the Council: “All the proceeds from this carbon tax would be returned to the American people on an equal and quarterly basis via dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts.” The council estimates the dividend would start at $2,000 for a family of four, and rise with the carbon tax.
  • Significant regulatory rollback. The Council calls for “elimination of regulations that are no longer necessary upon the enactment of a rising carbon tax whose longevity is secured by the popularity of dividends.  Much of the EPA’s regulatory authority over carbon dioxide emissions would be phased out, including an outright repeal of the Clean Power Plan.”
  • Border carbon adjustments. Border adjustments for the carbon content of imports and exports would protect American manufacturers and penalize other nations who pollute freely, encouraging them to adopt their own carbon pricing to reduce emissions.

Record percentages of Americans are concerned about global warming. A Gallup survey conducted last month found that 68 percent of those polled believe humans are causing climate change, and 62 percent are convinced we’re already experiencing its negative effects.

Almost half of Americans — 45 percent — say they worry a “great deal” about climate change and 42 percent see global warming as a serious threat in their lifetime. An additional 21 percent say they worry a “fair amount” about the problem, according to the poll.

In response to the changing climate and growing public concern, 17 Republicans in the House of Representatives introduced a Republican Climate Resolution. The resolution, introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-FL, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, Rep. Ryan Costello, R-PA, Rep. Pat Meehan, R-PA, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, and 12 other Republicans, resolves that “the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.”

More and more Republican members of Congress are joining the fast-growing House Climate Solutions Caucus which serves “to explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” The caucus is now up to 34 members, with 10 more members of Congress recently joining to look for climate solutions.  The caucus membership is being kept even between Republicans and Democrats.  Pennsylvania is well represented in the caucus with Republican Reps. Costello, Meehan, Fitzpatrick and Democrat Rep. Boyle. There are Republicans concerned about climate change and eager to seek solutions, I urge Rep. Perry to join them. Constituents of Rep. Scott Perry’s district, PA-04, can help by respectfully urging Perry to co-sponsor the House Republican Climate Resolution and to join the House Climate Solutions Caucus by calling his office at (202) 225-5836 or better yet, writing his office at 1207 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515.

— Jon Clark is Mid-Atlantic regional co-coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby and lives in Lancaster. He is a member of the York Dispatch Editorial Advisory Board.