Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of a seminal day in the history of our planet — the day NASA climate scientist James Hansen spoke to a Senate subcommittee about the dangers presented by global warming, stating that “the greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now.” His testimony was “the opening salvo of the age of climate change,” according to Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley.
Three decades later, Haonsen’s forecasts seem prescient. He projected that by 2017, the globe’s average temperature would be about 1.85 degrees higher than the 1950 to 1980 NASA-calculated average. The end of 2017 revealed a 1.48-degree rise in the 30-year average, The Associated Press reported recently.
He also predicted that in the Northern Piedmont, the 30-year temperature inscrease would be 1.46 degrees. Instead, it has been 1.51 degrees, according to the AP.
Public awareness has been steadily rising since then, especially as the scientific consensus has become stronger. It’s convincing enough that the U.S. Pentagon makes projections based on climate change, as does the insurance industry. Those are two forces that aren’t going to fool around.
Many countries throughout the world have responded by taking steps to deal with climate change by reducing emissions and switching to cleaner sources of energy, like wind, solar and thermal. They’ve also seen economic opportunities in the switch. China, for one, would like to sell its solar panels to the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, one faction holds out — the U.S. Republican Party. Relying on whack-a-mole tactics and donations from carbon-burning industries, the GOP at large denies the scientific consensus. It is “a core element of Republican identity to reject climate science,” Jerry Taylor, a former analyst for the Cato Institue, now an active climate-change activist, told the AP recently.
There’s hope that this picture might change, though.
One factor is the congressional Climate Solutions Caucus — a bipartisan group composed equally of Democratic and Replublican members (currently 39 from each party) that meets to discuss climate change and try to find legislative solutions.
“There are a lot of Republicans who understand this is a real challenge, and the caucus is giving them a place where they can explore ideas,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, the founding Republican member, told the AP. “One of our main goals is to depoliticize environmental policy in the U.S.”
Another is the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a group composed mostly of volunteers who meet with legislators to promote a carbon fee and dividend plan. This plan would tax carbon-producing industries and apply the proceeds to create millions of jobs — 2.8 million within 20 years, according to their research — and increase the GDP by about $80 billion per year. The plan could also reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent within 20 years. This could reduce and perhaps even reverse the negative affects of climate change.
Red-state Utah, with an 83 percent Republican legislative majority, came close to passing a similar carbon tax bill in March that would assess a fee on carbon emissions, returning the net proceeds to taxpayers. It only failed because of time constraints in the legislative session. It did pass a resolution “recognizing a warming climate and asserting Utah’s responsibility for action to address it while promoting a growing economy,” according to the CCL.
Other Republicans who support taxing carbon pollution include former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Henry M. Paulson Jr., a former secretary of the Treasury. They call it “a conservative climate solution based on free-market principles.”
Major oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, have also come out in favor of the approach.
The CCL’s plan has been well developed and deserves Congress’ consideration.
As the Journal has stated before, we need not choose between environmental protection and economic growth. Both are possible if we’re smart.