We have several critical issues and challenges that will saddle future generations if not addressed today with a sense of urgency. That being the massive and growing national debt and the social and economic risks posed by climate change. Indeed, they are directly related. Future generations need heroes now, today, to address these issues with meaningful and responsible action. Who will step up?
U.S. House Resolution 424, sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., in September of 2015, defines a Republican effort to express “the commitment of the House of Representatives to conservative environmental stewardship.” That resolution states that “if left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans, hitting vulnerable populations hardest, harming productivity in key economic sectors such as construction, agriculture and tourism, saddling future generations with costly economic and environmental burdens, and imposing additional costs on State and Federal budgets that will further add to the long-term fiscal challenges that we face as a Nation.”
As far as the potential social and economic effects of climate change are concerned, there is indeed a meaningful and responsible solution that conforms to conservative values. The Niskanen Center, a conservative libertarian 501(c)(3) think tank, published ‘The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax’ in March of 2015. That paper makes a strong case that conservatives should make a carbon tax the centerpiece of their environmental policy agenda:
1) The alternative to a carbon tax is NOT a policy of nonintervention. The only political alternative to a carbon tax is command-and control regulation. Those regulations are firmly entrenched in law, and there is no plausible scenario in which they are removed by conservative political force. Carbon taxes are a far less costly means of securing greenhouse gas emissions reductions than command-and-control regulation. To reject a revenue-neutral carbon tax is to implicitly embrace the regulatory status quo.
2) Even were this not the case, conservatives should embrace some sort of greenhouse gas emissions constraints on their merits. Risks from climate change are real, and a policy of ignoring those risks and hoping for the best is inconsistent with risk management practices conservatives embrace in other, non-climate contexts.
3) Conservatives should consider economist Adele Morris’ carbon tax plan and examine its economic implications. That plan implements a carbon tax and in return suspends EPA regulatory authority over greenhouse gas emissions, eliminates green energy tax preferences, provides for revenue neutrality by cutting corporate income tax rates and reimburses poor households to minimize the regressive nature of the tax swap.
We need our conservative members of Congress to become our heroes for future generations, leveraging their strong heritage of risk management practices. A revenue neutral carbon tax, placing a tax on fossil fuels at the source, the well, mine, or port of entry, then returning all revenue to American households as a dividend, is a solution that is environmentally effective, economically responsible, nonpartisan, simple and transparent. Those who oppose a price on carbon say it will harm the economy, but if we return 100 percent as dividends back to the American people, we will actually see positive economic growth and job creation.
I agree with the Niskanen Center report that there is ample opportunity for conservative action. “Happily for conservatives, the costs associated with an effective hedge — a revenue neutral carbon tax that displaces the existing command-and-control regulatory regime — would yield a reduction in the size of government, a gain in economic efficiency and an improvement in conservative political prospects by addressing a problem that worries an overwhelming majority of the American public.”
Paul Kreider is an IT services delivery director with HCL Americas Inc. serving Micron in Boise. He holds an MBA from the William E. Simon School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester.