Conservatives can lead the country to climate-change solutions | Opinion

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made stewardship of the environment a centerpiece of his campaign.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made stewardship of the environment a centerpiece of his campaign. AP

Sen. Marco Rubio opened his recent USA Today opinion piece, We should choose adaptive solutions, with a line that should set off alarm bells for homeowners and homebuyers: “I can tell you Florida will be forced to continue making adjustments in the coming decades because of the changing climate,” Rubio writes. “Trend lines suggest sunny-day flooding will become increasingly common as local sea levels rise from a variety of causes. As a result, some researchers predict that the 30-year mortgage will die out in low-lying parts of our state.”

Let’s reread that last line: “Some researchers predict that the 30-year mortgage will die out in low-lying parts of our state.”

Beyond apple pie and fireworks on the Fourth of July, not much is more emblematic of the American Dream than home ownership. From lawmakers to community thought leaders to those skimping and saving for a place to call their own, everyone should take note of the Woods Hole Research Institute’s warning that, “Once insurers become too anxious to insure homes in Florida based on a 1 in 20 chance of paying out on a climate event, then the lenders will pull out of the market all together.”

The idea that 30-year mortgage instruments would not be available in some parts of Florida leaves us in the “eco-right” scratching our heads, especially given the wake-up call of the Green New Deal, which shook many in the GOP out of their climate stupor. Conservatives can lead the country to climate-change solutions based on our principles. But we have to retire the old talking points and get real about pushing solutions beyond optimistic promises of adaptation. Seawalls, traffic circles and solar panels are great and necessary tools in the fight, but they aren’t a complete answer to this global threat. Only an accountable free market can unleash the full power of innovation.

One can fairly assume that in Florida, Rubio would receive kudos for taking a strong climate leadership role. Just look at the reception Gov. Ron DeSantis got when appointing the state’s first-ever chief resilience officer. Add to that the tireless efforts of Rep. Francis Rooney to spark momentum for a carbon tax. Several members of the Florida delegation sit on the House Climate Solutions Caucus. Rep. Carlos Curbelo lost re-election not because he didn’t do enough on climate change but because party leadership didn’t let him do more.

Increasingly, conservative members of “Gen Z” — post-millennials — join millennials in overwhelmingly accepting the science of climate change and wanting to take action. Mind you, these young adults have never experienced a cooler-than-average month in their lives. To them, climate change isn’t just a political wedge; it’s a high priority value that demands a solution. And if they’re conservative young adults, they want a solution without grandiose economy shifting, government growing initiatives.

Rubio counsels against a “regressive overreaction,” and surely we want to avoid regression. But vetted economic solutions to climate change — such as the revenue-neutral, border adjustable carbon tax favored by most economists — is completely consistent with bedrock conservative principles and reliance on markets for innovation.

Let’s rise to the challenge with solutions that match the scale of the problem. Let’s not shy away from what’s bold and what’s hard, but lean into our exceptionalism. Let’s preserve the heart of the American Dream, the one that literally houses our hopes for the future.

Bob Inglis, a Republican, represented Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the U.S. House from 1993-1999 and 2005-2011. He now works to advance free enterprise solutions to climate change at republicEn.org.