Bob Inglis’ efforts as a Republican pursuing meaningful action on climate change have always been noteworthy, but now they’re award worthy.
On Monday, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced that the former U.S. Congressman for South Carolina had been named the 2015 recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for political courage. A courage he demonstrated “when he reversed his previous position on climate change, knowing that by acknowledging the scientific reality of atmospheric warming and calling on the United States to meaningfully address the issue, he was jeopardizing his political career,” according to the release.
After representing the 4th Congressional District of South Carolina from 1993–98 and again from 2005–2010, Inglis lost his re-election bid in part due to this decision. Since then, instead of admitting defeat, he has gone on to work on the issue at the grassroots level, founding the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, which is devoted to conservative and free-enterprise solutions to energy and climate challenges. Housed at George Mason University in Virgina, it includes the community-driven group republicEn.
In a 2013 interview with Yale Environment 360, Inglis said the goal of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative is to “see a true cost competition between all fuels, and the result of that, we believe, is that free enterprise will solve our energy and climate challenge.”
He said he thinks “we should send a price signal” and that a carbon tax is one way of approximating the “real cost of electricity” which includes environmental and climate impacts.
“Bob Inglis is a visionary and courageous leader who believes, as President Kennedy once said, that ‘no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings,’” Jack Schlossberg, Kennedy’s grandson and a member of the committee that picks the award winner, said in a statement. “In reversing his own position and breaking with his party to acknowledge the realities of a changing climate and its threat to human progress, he displayed the courage to keep an open mind and uphold his responsibilities as a leader and citizen at the expense of his own political career.”
In making the announcement, Inglis and Schlossberg co-authored an op-ed published by CNN in which they draw upon their divergent backgrounds in strengthening their “unwavering belief that the United States must lead the world on climate change and seize opportunities for unity, growth and progress”:
Many of our elected representatives persist in inaction and complacency by arguing that individual nations are powerless to solve the problem because every nation is culpable. Others choose to dispute the science, deny the evidence, and avoid the question of how to solve the problem.
The authors maintain an optimistic perspective for the most part, positing that climate change is another opportunity for “American triumph” and “human progress” to prevail. They say we can start by making simple changes in the tax code that would be acceptable to the right and the left, and “provide solutions without making government any bigger.”
In a 2013 interview with ThinkProgress, Inglis said that while the “climate change matter was started by liberals,” conservatives and Republicans need to stand up and lead.
“As the economy improves, I think my party is going to have to offer up real solutions to succeed,” he said. “I’m very optimistic that things are beginning to turn, and that Republicans will be offering solutions and not looking for scapegoats.”
Inglis’ predictions are yet to pan out. A Congress run by Republicans has balked at taking any climate action and has made a point of slandering the EPA as frequently as possible. The slate of 2016 Republican presidential candidates, including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio, have also done little to add credence to Inglis’ perception.