Conservative group’s carbon plan gives us hope for climate change action

By Dallas Morning News editorial board

After decades of overwhelming scientific evidence showing that man-made emissions are endangering the planet’s future, there should be no climate change deniers left.

If only that were true. Congressional Republicans refuse to take powerful steps to embrace renewable energy. Like the Trump administration, they seem poised to roll back environmental rules, including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, without also establishing a workable mechanism to reduce carbon emissions. With the clock ticking on climate change problems, this would be highly irresponsible.

That is why we are pleased the Climate Leadership Council — a conservative panel including former Secretaries of State George Schultz and James Baker and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson — is challenging skeptics in their party with a market-based approach. While their plan to tax carbon emissions has flaws, as does any carbon reduction system, we think it boldly speaks truth to power and could bring moderate Republicans to the table.

Market-based green-energy plans work, and lawmakers need only look to Texas, a fossil fuel intensive state, for evidence. Under former Gov. Rick Perry’s renewable energy policies, Texas attracted billions of dollars in clean energy investments and created jobs that pay salaries that can support a family.

Texas leads the nation in wind power and capacity; if it were a country, it would rank about sixth worldwide as a wind energy producer. Each time a wind turbine spins, Texas avoids putting tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The explosion of wind power has the state on a pace to exceed the carbon reduction targets in the Clean Power Plan. The reason? The state set aggressive targets for renewable energy use, and the market exceeded them.

Nonetheless, slowing climate change won’t be without pain, regardless of the approach. For example, the Climate Leadership Council’s proposal would enact a rising carbon tax on emitters starting at $40 a ton. That could result in about 36 cents more on a gallon of gasoline and a 5 to 10 percent increase in retail electricity rates. In theory, consumers and producers would respond by reducing consumption or switching to renewable energy sources. To make the tax more politically acceptable, consumers would get a portion of the tax revenue back in the form of a dividend; businesses would get relief from much of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority, including the Clean Power Plan.

The voices of Baker, Paulson, Schultz and other conservatives are especially important now. The world can’t mitigate the most destructive consequences of climate pollution unless clean technology remains on this nation’s agenda as a signal to other major carbon emitters of what is at stake.

In an interview with The Dallas Morning News in 2015, Paulson said global climate change is “going to change life in America in fundamental ways,” ranging from the destruction of agriculture to businesses that are no longer able to operate. Dozens of companies like Wal-Mart, Walt Disney, Exxon Mobil and General Electric factor carbon regulation into their plans. Also, many former military officials say humanitarian disasters, destabilized governments and other national security threats could result from further inaction on climate change.

Skeptical conservatives should be embracing smart, market-based carbon reduction approaches built on choices and options. And they need to do it now before it is too late.

You can read the full Dallas Morning news article here.