Putting the "Conserve" Back into Conservative
As a lifelong Republican, I believe effective stewardship includes a conservative approach to the environment. Our planet is finite -- we've only got one -- so making it last as long as possible is logical and responsible. Furthermore, with clear and convincing scientific evidence that human activity is altering the climate, the conservative grounding in facts and data should leave room for few questions, with the exception of, "So what are we going to do about it?"
"Our planet is finite -- we've only got one -- so making it last as long as possible is logical and responsible."
Sadly, when it comes to climate, conservatives need to start by getting their collective heads out of the sand. Research by Pew shows that, over the past four years, the share of Americans who believe addressing climate change should be a top priority has increased from 38% to 52%, but among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents there has been no similar increase. It shouldn't be that way.
I co-founded World War Zero with former Secretary of State John Kerry to move beyond the partisanship of climate change and build consensus for action. As you no doubt know, we are bringing together a group of unlikely allies -- Democrats, Republicans and independents, scientists, military leaders, business leaders, diplomats, entertainers, and ordinary people from all walks of life -- to mobilize, speak up, and tackle climate change together.
"...when it comes to climate, conservatives need to start by getting their collective heads out of the sand."
Many of the basic components of a responsible plan have already been test-driven by other nations and some U.S. states, and proven to work by leaders from both sides of the political aisle.
In my own state of Ohio, for example, we reduced carbon emissions by about 30% from 2005 to 2014, encouraged aggressive efforts to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, held off pressure to eliminate or soften strong renewable-energy standards, and built a strong regulatory structure to incentivize natural gas development. Our approach was balanced, reasonable and nondisruptive, and focused on protecting public health and the environment -- and we created half-a-million jobs toward the end of this window, during my administration.
"It is possible to boost the economy, stimulate job growth and spark innovation through climate challenge policies. In fact, it's essential to."
Making these kinds of cases is what can change minds, and spreading the word to fellow conservatives is part of my mission in World War Zero. The time has come for people who value responsible stewardship of our resources and prioritize science and data in decision-making to get involved in the innovative work of solving problems with our climate.
And contrary to what some may fear, the responsible economic principles of free-market capitalism and personal choice must absolutely be part of the answer. Conservatives have shown how their application can drive change; the answer isn't always just more big government. It is possible to boost the economy, stimulate job growth and spark innovation through climate challenge policies. In fact, it's essential to.
"Left unchecked, the impact of climate change ... won't happen just to liberals or Democrats. The pain will be decidedly bipartisan. No one will escape unscathed."
Left unchecked, the impact of climate change will only further alter our world as we know it -- eventually drowning our coasts and the cities located along them, accelerating species extinction, devastating agriculture and causing famine, ravaging our economy and impacting everyone's health. And to be clear -- this won't happen just to liberals or Democrats. The pain will be decidedly bipartisan. No one will escape unscathed.
The hope I increasingly see amidst all this is our young people. Younger Republicans don't share the disbelief in climate change of older Republicans. Their respect for the facts and their conviction for action can help create the critical mass for changes in line with the conservative approaches that we know can work for the good for all of us. I'm counting on it.
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