Conservative climate policy is not an oxymoron

In this March 26, 2013 file photo, Republican state Sen. Doug Ericksen, left, and Democratic state Sen. Kevin Ranker listen to testimony from a climate change skeptic at a hearing in Olympia, Wash. Environmentalists are bracing for court battles over what they fear will be an unprecedented wave of rollbacks on policies concerning climate change. (Rachel La Corte/AP)

Democrats have been trying to push for climate change policy for years. Recent attempts include the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007, which did not make it past committee, and the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill, which died in the United States Senate. In 2013, the Climate Protection Act and the Sustainable Energy Act also failed. Then, under the Obama administration, the Clean Power Plan was established to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants based on EPA regulations. Due to the fact that, on the political stage, what was once a scientific fact has been debauched into a partisan issue, many of these policies have failed to be practically implemented, and those that have passed have done little to address climate change.

However, just last week a Republican group led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III proposed a climate change policy that might please both parties. According to a New York Times report, Baker, alongside former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and former Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson Jr., developed a conservative form of the standard carbon tax, which charges consumers by the amount of carbon dioxide they produce. The initial proposal suggests a price of $40 per ton of carbon dioxide produced, which could raise between $200 billion and $300 billion in one year. The tax would then be increased over time.

While carbon taxes and their most common alternative, emissions trading policies, have been considered for years, it is enormously important that this tax be proposed and supported by conservatives, especially in today’s political climate. Baker’s proposal calls for a carbon tax that is based on free-market principles and limited government, two strongly conservative ideals. It also states that any revenue raised by the tax would be returned to the American public through dividends that would amount to around $2,000 annually at the initial price of $40 per ton, which would greatly increase voter support for the proposition. To compromise with Democrats, the dividends would be granted to families at a flat rate, so the income would benefit poorer families more than wealthier families, according to a report from the Washington Post.

To appease those who are concerned that businesses will flock to other countries that do not tax consumers for carbon dioxide emissions, Baker’s group has also included border adjustments in the plan that would increase costs of goods produced in foreign countries without carbon dioxide regulations. And to those who believe that climate change is not a direct result of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, Baker says that he too is unsure of how much of an affect humans have had on carbon dioxide levels, but that “the risks are sufficiently great that we need to have an insurance policy,” according to the New York Times report. This argument might even be enough to convince some climate change deniers to throw their support behind the proposal. With all of these compromises and added provisions, this proposal might serve as a midground for enough interest groups to gain more widespread support.


More importantly, Baker’s proposal serves as a necessary reminder that the platform of the Republican party is not to deny climate change, despite the views of a handful of far-right politicians. A conservative climate change policy such as this shows Americans that climate change is not a partisan issue, but a bipartisan issue for which agreement between the two major parties is in fact possible. In a country where more than two thirds of people are concerned about climate change, and 78 percent of registered voters support taxes or regulation on pollution that contributes to climate change, it is vital that the political sphere take a similar stance. If Baker’s proposal can make it past the extreme ideologues on both sides of the spectrum, perhaps the United States can hope to move toward a more pragmatic climate change policy.


Alex Oliveira is a staff columnist for the Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.oliveira@uconn.edu.