Miami, of all places, might be most aware of rising sea levels and the risk of increasing storm intensity.
But what’s a conservative to do? Agree to walk and eat bugs? Accept a future of shivering or sweating in the dark depending on the season? Join the apocalyptic whine from the environmental left about our sure and imminent demise?
Let’s not do any of those things. Let’s show that this is about reasonable risk avoidance and sound economics. Let’s be the optimists who say, “You’ve got a problem? We’ve got a solution.” Accountable free enterprise can deliver more energy, more mobility and more convenience. Innovation and human ingenuity can bring us better, cleaner and cheaper fuels.
During my first six years in Congress, I said there was no problem to be solved —that climate change was Al Gore’s imagination. I took a break from Congress for six years, practicing commercial real-estate law. When I was running for Congress again in 2004, my son had just turned 18 and was voting for the first time. He came to me and said, “I’ll vote for you, Dad, but you’re going to clean up your act on the environment.”
Because I love my son, his four younger sisters and his Mom — all of whom agreed with him! — I started to look into the science.
When I got back to Congress, I joined the Science Committee and went to Antarctica in 2006. I saw the ice core studies showing rising CO2 levels in our atmosphere.
I learned that when we started to burn fossil fuels during the Industrial Revolution, we started to change the chemistry of the air and oceans. I learned that sunlight comes through our blanket of greenhouse gases, but that radiant heat gets trapped. Some of that is a great thing. Were it not for that blanket, we wouldn’t be able to live on Earth.
But the data indicate that we’re adding too many blankets, risking an uncomfortable sweat.
Still, this was just data; it wasn’t enough to cause me to act. My heart wasn’t in it yet. That changed when I met an Australian climate scientist who humbly and quietly told me about conservation changes he’d made in his life in order to love God and love people — people we’ll never know because they’ll come long after us.
That got my heart.
My timing wasn’t very good because I decided to act in the midst of the Great Recession. Note to self: Do not introduce revenue-neutral carbon tax in the midst of Great Recession! That and some other heresies got me thrown out of Congress in South Carolina’s 2010 Republican primary. But that’s OK, because now I have the opportunity to rally conservatives to magnificent free enterprise solutions on energy and climate.
Usually, we conservatives feel dragged along by the ever-expanding liberal ship of state. We see ourselves as the anchor on that ship, and in many ways we are. But on this issue of climate change, we have the opportunity to be the ship’s engine.
We passionately believe in markets and free enterprise. We want to avoid regulatory dictates on climate change. And we want to eliminate all subsidies for all fuels. What some of us haven’t considered is the possibility that the biggest subsidy of all is being able to pump pollutants into the air with no accountability.
Those pollutants are fouling our families’ lungs and endangering the climate for those who will come after us. We can improve our lives and theirs by simply changing what we tax. Cut taxes on income. Put a tax on pollution. Shrink the EPA by repealing some regulations that would be made redundant by the pollution tax. Give China and other trading partners every reason to enact the same pollution tax in their own countries by otherwise imposing our tax on the products they ship into ours.
Conservatives are always looking for ways to grow our economy and to shrink our government. We love to turn dangers into opportunities. We have the incredible opportunity to turn the danger of climate change into the opportunity of economic growth.
Bob Inglis directs the Energy and Enterprise Initiative based at George Mason University. He represented South Carolina’s Fourth District in Congress from 1993-1999 and from 2005-2011.