Balancing Climate Change with a Strong Economy; A New Conservative Movement

Last week Pope Francis added his name to a growing list of public figures that are pushing for collective action against climate change. Now well into his second term, President Obama has sought to make addressing this issue a centerpiece of his final months in the Oval Office. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report, indicating that by the end of century Americans could pay as much as $3.1 billion from damages related to rising sea levels in addition to $180 billion dollars related to water shortages. Because of this, the EPA under the Obama Administration has issued 135 rules costing local/state governments and the private sector $294.7 billion.

During a time of slow economic recovery, many have criticized the President for over-regulating several critical industries that together employ millions of people all around the country. This is on top of the fact that a significant amount of the rules issued by the EPA are in the form of “Unfunded Mandates” which set requirements for producers and administrators without providing financial assistance. Together, over-regulation and unfunded mandates put a substantial financial burden on industry and government alike, often hindering support for such proposals.

What must be considered within this debate however is that “97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that the warming climate is likely due to human activities,” according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Moreover, if problems facing our planet are not addressed soon the impact will only be compounded making future action more difficult, less effective, and more expensive. Therefore, the United States must work to create policies that address rising global temperatures while accounting for the immense impact these actions will have on the American economy.

Impeding a radical, more progressive policy approach to our climate is the Republican Party. For the last few decades elected officials from the GOP have gone on record refuting the fact climate change exists or that the warming climate is linked to manmade activity. However, slowly but surly Republicans are catching up to the science. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, has been outspoken regarding the need for new environmental policies from the Right that address the warming climate. Like Graham, other conservative members of Congress have warmed up to the idea of an industry conscious approach that would curtail the negative effects of climate change while not crippling the American economy.

Outside of politics, several other entities are laying the groundwork for a new conservative movement on the environment. The Energy and Enterprise Initiative, which has support from several prominent Republicans, has sought to build support for fiscally responsible tax policies to bring members of the Republican Party to the table on climate policy. Similarly, Jay Faison and his new organization the ClearPath Foundation is partaking in a $175 million endeavor to inform Republican voters and politicians alike on the dangers of climate change, while also seeking free-market solutions that successfully address the ever-pressing issue.

Together, politicians and grassroots efforts are building momentum on the Right for initiatives that protect the environment. These initiatives will surly have a less damaging impact then the regulatory burden created by the Obama Administration, while also effectively tackling one the most important issues of our time. If done correctly, the private sector will be able to smoothly transition into more eco-friendly practices in the short-term, while the nation and the world will benefit tremendously in the long run, truly a win-win situation for all.

Global Day of Action Climate March by Oxfam International is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0