Conservatives, Now Is The Time To Positively Influence Climate Policy And Challenge GOP Obstruction

If conservatives are concerned about the role of government in deploying climate solutions today, they haven’t even begun to realize the scope of government influence when the severity of climate change catches up to us.

Writing in the Washington Post in 2010, Bracken Hendricks, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, put it this way:

Today’s conservatives would do well to start thinking more like military planners, reexamining the risks inherent in their strategy. If, instead, newly elected Republicans do nothing, they will doom us all to bigger government interventions and a large dose of suffering – a reckless choice that’s anything but conservative.

As Benjamin Franklin famously said: “an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.”

In a 2006 report, British economist Sir Nicolas Stern concluded that a ton of CO2 damage is worth at least $85, but those emissions can be cut at a cost of roughly $25 per ton. And without cutting those emissions, our business-as-usual scenario could cost the world between 5 percent and 20 percent of GDP in the coming decades.

Given that stark choice, conservatives have a unique opportunity to make a decidedly conservative decision: help deploy solutions today that can keep manage the cost of climate change mitigation and adaptation. If not, the future costs will be considerably higher and the role of government considerably larger.

Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp understands this framing. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, Krupp encourages conservatives to stop dismissing the problem and start seriously proposing solutions that can compete/co-exist with those proposed by progressives:

Many conservatives start out as climate skeptics for understandable reasons. To begin with, it’s an issue that’s long been associated with liberal Democrats. We’re all skeptical about issues presented by leaders with whom we normally disagree. Secondly, conservatives naturally insist on extensive evidence when a claim seems to justify more government action.

But one of the hallmarks of modern conservatism is to try to see the world as it is, not as one hopes it would be. Skeptics who make their decisions based on the best available information have long said they would reconsider their conclusions as the facts dictate. And many of them are concluding that the planet is warming in ways that outpace its natural rhythms. In a recent University of Texas poll, 70% of Americans, and 53% of Republicans, accepted the reality of climate change. This is not just a function of the summer’s brutal heat.

…We’ll have a much better shot at developing solutions to our climate and energy problems that are good for our economy if leaders from across the political spectrum get re-engaged in the debate. It is time for conservatives to compete with liberals to devise the best, most cost-effective climate solutions. Solving this challenge will require all of us.

This competitive framing of the issue is an effective approach. Indeed, it’s time for small-government conservatives to stop dismissing or running away from the problem just because they disagree with many of the solutions proposed by those on the left.

Consider this recent admission from Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, one of the most prominent and aggressive global warming deniers in Congress: “I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee and I first heard about this. I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”

That’s a pretty loaded statement. Inhofe blatantly admits he’s willing to ignore the increasingly dire conclusions of 97 percent of climate scientists — literally threatening civilization as we know it — in order to satisfy his ideological beliefs about the role of government.

This is exactly what’s preventing many American conservatives from playing a constructive role in addressing our greatest planetary challenge.

Former South Carolina GOP Representative Bob Inglis understands the opportunity that conservatives have to positively influence the debate. Last month, Inglis launched a new initiative to develop “conservative solutions to America’s energy and climate challenges.” The initiative has the support of other influential conservatives such as Holtz-Eakin, John McCain’s former economic adviser, and Gregory Mankiw, former chief economist of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Will the voices of these conservatives rise above the ideological noise within the Republican party?

Related Post:

  • Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery:  “Real adaptation requires much bigger and far more intrusive government than mitigation.  Indeed, if the anti-science ideologues get their way and stop serious mitigation, then the government will inevitably get into the business of telling people where they can and can’t live (can’t let people keep rebuilding in the ever-spreading flood plains or the ever-enlarging areas threatened by sea level rise and DustBowlification) and how they can live (sharp water curtailment in the SW DustBowl, for instance) and possibly what they can eat.  Conservative action against climate action now will force big government in coming decades to triage our major coastal cities — Key West and Galveston and probably New Orleans would be unsavable, but what about Miami and Houston?”

12 Responses to Conservatives, Now Is The Time To Positively Influence Climate Policy And Challenge GOP Obstruction

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    The word “conservative” has lost its meaning today. The Senate used to feature thoughtful and erudite conservatives like Everett Dirksen, who actually loved his country.

    People like Boehner, McConnell, Inhofe and the rest of them are greedy airheads who believe that being a conservative means that you are entitled to do anything you want to make more money. They are out of step with their own voters, who have been manipulated.

    We must reform the media, or encourage a concerned billionaire (Berkle? Google?) to form a new company that will tell Americans the truth, about polluting for free, wars for fun and profit, and turning education, prisons, and banking into criminal rackets. Then we might begin to see change.

  2. SecularAnimist says:

    Fred Krupp wrote: “one of the hallmarks of modern conservatism is to try to see the world as it is, not as one hopes it would be”

    That’s a good one! Wow, what with the open letter to Charles Koch, and now this, you guys are really piling on with the hilarious satire today.

    THE “hallmark” of modern conservatism is to see the world as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh say it is on any given day.

    People like Inhofe are not “small government conservatives”. They have no principles and the fake, phony, trumped-up, Madison Avenue-scripted, focus-group-tested, talk radio-programmed, so-called “conservative” pseudo-ideology that they spoon-feed to gullible Ditto-Heads is as bogus as their denialist pseudo-science.

    They are bought-and-paid-for stooges for the fossil fuel corporations, no more, no less.

    You want them to change sides? Show ’em the money.

  3. Leif says:

    “stooges”? I believe the term you are looking for SA is “Stochastic Terrorists.”

  4. Solar Jim says:

    RE: “Secondly, conservatives naturally insist on extensive evidence when a claim seems to justify more government action.”

    Really Mr. Krupp? I thought the US invaded Iraq based on neocon assertion of a 1% doctrine of possible “national security risk” from WMD. We are about two orders of magnitude higher risk for collapse of climate. Note that petroleum hegemony seems possibly connected to both situations.

  5. M Tucker says:

    “But one of the hallmarks of modern conservatism is to try to see the world as it is, not as one hopes it would be.”


    Modern conservatives left the real world many years ago. Otherwise a nice article. Also a nice try but modern conservatives stick their fingers in their ear and shout “la-la-la-la” whenever anyone tries to use persuasion to influence their thinking. The biggest characteristic of the modern conservative is their supremely recalcitrant opinions on anything to do with the environment. In fact they want to move backward. I know you have noticed this Stephen (and Krupp too). Do you think they are kidding when they say they want to eliminate EPA regulations? Do you think they are kidding when they say they want to eliminate the Energy Department (Commerce and Education too)? Do you think they are kidding when they say they want to open public lands to mining and drilling? Do you think they are kidding when they apologize to BP? What do you suppose they would like to do about mountain-top removal? Have they stopped calling for drilling in ANWR? Have they stopped calling for more offshore drilling? It is a nice article but expecting conservative to listen borders on fantasy.

  6. Mark Shapiro says:

    Conservatism is about reducing risks — and identifying them.

    Conservatism is about internalizing external costs — no free lunch.

    Conservatism leads directly toward a clean energy economy, especially efficiency and simple conservation. It uses markets.

    Of course what passes for conservatism today is largely consumptionism in lipstick. Try Bob Inglis, Andrew Sullivan, John Cole (voices in the conservative wilderness).

  7. Gillian King says:

    New conservative voices like Krupp and Inglis will have to shout loud and long if they are to swing the views of conservatives. The initial reaction to them (see the comments on Krupp’s WSJ article) is to dismiss them as new liberals or traitors.

    Conservatives need to hear from conservatives, and ironically, articles like this from liberals don’t help their cause. Approval from liberals just signals that these conservatives have switched sides.

    They may make more headway with their conservative audiences if ClimateProgress (and other liberals) denounced them.

  8. Aussie John says:

    The only things so called “conservative” industrialists are conserving are their own industries continuing growth and profitability; and a political power base that enables national government regulation to be moulded to their will.

    “Conservative” politicians are conserving (to name but a few); their “birthright” to govern; their access to massive election sponsorship; their lucrative positions in government; their endless flow of insidious media propaganda that disguises their betrayal of citizen welfare; their assurance of transition to corporate “reward” employment after political failure .

    Conservation of “national interest”, honesty, integrity and a healthy living environment on Earth for our children, and our children’s children don’t get a guernsey.

    Selfish human greed knows no bounds.

  9. I’m not sure where to put this comment, but right here seems as good a place as any. Here is an article in the 8-7-12 Des Moines Register (and I assume making the rounds elsewhere):

    The headline is what you see in the URL, and it needs a bunch of answers. The article is by Tom Harris, who is listed as being “executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition in Ottawa, Ontario”. I checked it, and it seems to be boiler-plate denialist. The article tries to be clever at setting up “extreme right” and “extreme left” as equal ignorant dunderheads and then offers something called “climate realism” as a solution to their perceived errors. The so-called realism consists of a lot of silly stuff that could be refuted, but since it tries to pander to a feeling that “the truth is somewhere in between” extremes, and since a lot of people seem to think that “somewhere in between” stuff makes sense, I think the article ought to be greeted by a lot of letters to the editor wherever it appears. I plan to send one to the Register, but since they just printed one of my letters this week, I wouldn’t bet on another one being published so soon. So I hope they get a bunch more.

  10. John McCormick says:

    Fred Krupp’s not listening M Tucker.

  11. John McCormick says:

    Thanks Tom.

    Read the piece. It was obviously written or ghost written by Bjorn Lomburg, Copenhagen Consensus. Those are his views; his words published many times throughout his propaganda career.

    In the comments section, it was great to see the level of understanding most of the contributors have and how they smacked Tom Harris silly. He is seriously dangerous though and needs to be outed whenever he posts his bought and paid for opinions.

  12. Tom Harris says:

    Thanks for the comparison with Lomborg. I am very flattered. I’ll let hm know (he will be annoyed as he and I are on different sides on the science of climate).