by Edward Ring
For the fanatics on the far Left, and perhaps even for those deranged millions in the middle of the Democratic pack, there is nothing a Republican can say about “climate” that would impress them. As far as they’re concerned, Republicans are racist, sexist, and xenophobic, with a long history of “denying” that climate change is an existential crisis. So anything the GOP has to say on the topic has no credibility.
The Republicans, led by Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), are trying anyway. As reported in The Hill and elsewhere, but without much fanfare, the GOP has released its own “climate plan” that is “meant to show voters the party cares about climate change.”
Predictable criticism came from the Left. As Vox reported, “New conservative climate plans are neither conservative nor climate plans; they are mainly designed to protect fossil fuels.” But the proposal also drew withering criticism from the Right. As reported in The Hill, “the conservative Club for Growth has pegged it as ‘stifling liberal environmental taxes, regulations, and subsidies’ while threatening to withhold support from any lawmaker who backs it.”
Axios and Politico offered more in-depth analysis of the Republican plans and emphasized the party is trying to come up with a way to be recognized as concerned about the environment without going off the deep end.
Of the four bills discussed, three were focused on carbon capture technology and infrastructure, mostly funded via tax credits, and one was designed to back up President Trump’s stated goal of supporting the “trillion trees” campaign.
The message the Republicans discussed trying to emphasize was to support a “clean environment” instead of focusing so much on “climate change.” It’s about time.
Returning to the Core Values of Environmentalism
There’s a lot to be praised about the GOP seizing some of the initiative on environmental policy, but plenty can go wrong. For nearly 20 years, and with increasing intensity, the entire focus of the environmental movement has been on “climate change.” For anyone with a shred of scientific or journalistic skepticism, or a love of freedom, or a basic sense of proportion, or common sense, or just a good bullshit detector, this has cost the environmentalist movement priceless credibility.
Does anyone who hasn’t already drunk the Kool-Aid take seriously a movement that has to prop up a pampered teenage truant as oracle to the world’s elites, or organizes “die-off” performative protests on the streets of European capitals, or, with straight faces, claims the world is going to come to an end in 12 years? Does anyone with a sense of history miss the connection between the “climate emergency,” complete with “dangerous,” “denier” scapegoats, propelled by billions of dollars spent on corporate and government propaganda efforts, and not be reminded of how other nations and cultures already have been down this authoritarian road?
Environmentalism’s core values are sacred, and they have been profaned by corporations and governments channeling that calling into a climate crusade, with traditional environmentalists turned into willing accomplices.
The professions of journalism and science have been corrupted, as has the nonprofit sector, and collectivists and capitalists alike are drinking at the trough. Meanwhile, the trajectories of progress on actual environmental challenges, from overpopulation to overfishing the oceans to wildlife poaching and wilderness preservation, have all been diminished.
This is why the trillion trees initiative is meaningful. It returns to the root benefits of environmentalism, while still nodding in the direction of the climate change zealots. The benefits of afforestation are undeniable, regardless of whether or not anyone believes in the dangers of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Afforestation has been proven to restore water tables, reviving springs and rivers. It has been proven to bring back regular rainfall to regions that were becoming arid. Forests harbor wildlife and timber provides a cash crop. If it happens to sequester CO2, so much the better.
Find Projects and Policies That Are Good Anyway
This principle, to do environmentally sound projects that make sense anyway, regardless of the “carbon accounting,” is a pathway to credibility for the GOP, and even might point the way toward more of a national consensus on environmental policy. This is why it is such a good idea for the GOP to propose new research into developing biodegradable, nontoxic new types of plastic, and to research how to clean up the millions of tons of plastic that even now continue to pour out of Asian and African rivers into the world’s oceans.
Conversely, the GOP proposal to fund pilot plants designed to sequester CO2 gas in underground caverns is only slightly less ridiculous than California’s near-miss regulation whereby they were going to require dairy cows to wear plastic bags attached to their anuses in order to capture the methane.
California’s preposterous scheme, hatched by fanatics and glommed onto by “researchers” looking for a quick buck, at least had the virtue of only wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. Carbon sequestration schemes are on track to waste billions, to do, what? Pressurize every cave in America and remove how many parts per million (PPM) of CO2 from the earth’s atmosphere? At what cost per PPM?
This is theater of the absurd. Maybe, maybe, it makes sense to sponsor research aimed at discovering how to convert CO2 directly into a fuel that maintains a solid or liquid form at room temperature. After all, trees do it. Otherwise, save the caves, and keep the gasbags off the dairy cows. It is, like so much of “climate policy,” cronyism pretending to be part of a sacred mission. Some cronyism is inevitable. But at least get something out of cronyism that benefits society.
The GOP needs to aggressively promote climate change-related proposals that make sense even if anthropogenic CO2 induced climate change really is the biggest hoax in human history. At the end of it all, we can then simply view “climate policy” as a means of capital formation to build things we needed anyway: seawalls, levees, reservoirs, desalination plants, nuclear power and other forms of clean energy; reforestation, sustainable fisheries, biodegradable plastic.
We can view these “good to do anyway” proposals as a way to fund scrubbers that will take the last bits of particulate matter out of the fossil fuel-based energy economy, recognizing that even if CO2 isn’t harmful to humans, it is unhealthy to breathe carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, especially in cities across Asia and Africa that have barely begun to get that under control and are looking for solutions.
This is the clean technology revolution that makes sense. The GOP needs to boldly proclaim support for ways to help humanity complete the journey to a pollution-free civilization while at the same time refusing to dismantle the capitalist system that gave us the wealth to pursue clean innovations in the first place.
Republicans should pursue an agenda that frowns on pollution even as it demands cost-benefit analysis on all “climate change” schemes and at the same time as they patiently remind anyone who will listen that fossil fuel use cannot possibly be precipitously eliminated. And, of course, they must demand an end to the silencing and demonization of rational contrarians who—imagine this—do not believe the world is about to come to an end.
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Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is a co-founder of the California Policy Center, a free-market think tank based in Southern California, where he served as their first president. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development. Ring, a fifth-generation Californian, has an undergraduate degree in political science from UC Davis, and an MBA in finance from the University of Southern California.
Photo “Cows” by Oregon State University. CC BY-SA 2.0.