Combating climate change should be a major goal for conservatives



Roosevelt set a good example for conservatives by protecting many natural lands.

Jacob Halterman, Crier staff

While I have major issues with both major parties, one topic in particular has always baffled me: why do Republicans reject climate changes and efforts, like green energy initiatives, that seek to address it?

After all, Republicans claim to be conservatives, and what could be more important to conserve than the literal air we breathe and water we drink?

Republicans are also the heirs to a stunning environmental conservation history; one that has its roots in Teddy Roosevelt, who developed the National Park system as we know it today.

Although this record may have become a bit tarnished recently, Republicans can easily reclaim their wonderful heritage, and save some money at the same time.

In researching this article, I came across some data that is not only good for the future of environmental politics, but also, in a way, shatters the stereotype of Republicans as complete contrarians on the topic of climate change.

As reported by the New York Times, while a large majority of Republicans reject “man-made” climate change, about 50% of GOPers nation-wide believe that the climate is changing (for reasons other than human involvement) and 57% say that the government should do more to regulate carbon dioxide pollution.

In the same report, nearly three-quarters (74%) of Republicans are in favor of government investment in renewable energy research and development.

Along similar lines, Pew Research reports that young Republicans are more conscious and concerned about environmental issues than their older counterparts.

This shift has already been seen; in February, a coalition of College Republican groups endorsed a carbon pollution tax.

In terms of demographics, it seems that the new generation will eventually move the GOP to a more environmentally-conscious platform, but by then, will it be too little too late?

Assuming that we don’t have time for college-ages kids to take over the leadership of a major party before addressing this issue, I’d like to argue in this article that embracing green energy is an incredible opportunity for older Republicans for two simple reasons: money and foreign policy.

Due to the volatility of oil exporters and the global energy market more broadly, numerous American politicians have spent decades seeking ways to make the U.S. more energy-independent.

Since the ‘70s and the oil-rationing crisis under Carter, the U.S. has done a great job of weening itself off foreign energy imports. However, the need for oil has not completely subsided, and we have fought several wars (among other reasons) in order to ensure our continued access to this supply of energy.

Allowing the government to subsidize or support the development and use of more efficient, renewable energy sources and achieve energy independence would dramatically alter parts of our foreign policy.

In the long run, this would save Americans an extraordinary amount of money, while also saving the environment. And let’s face some difficult truths – traditional energy sector jobs, such as coal mining, are slowly disappearing, and they’re not coming back.

As of 2017, the coal industry employed 160,000 people, a number vastly dwarfed by renewable energies, which employ nearly 800,000 Americans.

The most rapid growth in the energy sector has been with renewable sources; the solar and wind industries grew by 24.5% and 16% respectively, in the last year. The total number of coal plants in the US has fallen from 629 in 2003, to 491 in 2015, while solar panels and wind farms have become increasingly more common.

Falling costs, increased efficiency, and higher consumer demand all point to a near future dominated by green energy. The free market is speaking, and Republicans should listen.

This isn’t to say that natural gas and petroleum should be immediately tossed aside – they still provide about 60% of America’s total energy consumption – but we can, and should, start taking steps to phase out our consumption of foreign energy products, and eventually all non-renewable energy sources. Doing so is both environmentally and fiscally responsible as well.

Capitalism and pro-environment policies are not mutually exclusive, and if Republicans are truly concerned about energy independence, growing the economy, and the creation of stable jobs, then they should look to renewable energy.

Combating climate change is a conservative concept – even if Republicans don’t know it yet.