The big news this week about unexpected voices speaking up for action on climate change is, of course, from Pope Francis’ encyclical.
It’s hard to find a more influential voice than that of His Holiness. And yet, I’ve been hearing an encouraging array of calls for climate action from non-traditional allies, namely, the political right. I’ll share a few.
Conservative politicians and funders
Former member of Congress Bob Inglis now heads the Energy and Enterprise Initiative based at George Mason University. A personal hero of mine, Mr. Inglis famously called for Congress to act on climate when he was running for re-election in South Carolina back in 2010 and paid a steep political price for being ahead of the curve: he was “primaried,” that is to say, he lost his bid for re-election when a Republican to the right of him beat him in the primary election. But that hasn’t slowed Mr. Inglis one bit. Watch his comments (starting at about 24 minutes into the video) at a recent World Resources Institute webinar on pricing climate.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a declared candidate for President, is on record calling for his fellow Republicans to take action.
Jay Faison, a Republican entrepreneur from North Carolina, recently announced he’s putting up $175 million of his own money to get this campaign message out there and put some heat on Republican candidates who haven’t yet seen the light like Sen. Graham.
Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo, a Republican whose district includes the Everglades and the Keys, said this:
This is an important step for conservatives on the climate; just to have a conversation and say, ‘well even though I am not a scientist I can look at very basic data and realize that there are some challenges that we are going to be faced with.’ Scientific American also wrote about his good work.
Rear Admiral David W. Titley (Ret.), whose national security bona fides and expertise on climate can be questioned by none, is founding director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University. We Pennsylvanians are lucky to have Adm. Titley as a tremendously important voice on the national security threats of climate. We ignore his message at our enormous collective peril.
George Schultz, who served as Secretary of State under President Reagan, has strong views on the need to act and calls for a revenue-neutral carbon tax.
Hank Paulson served as Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Paulson says bluntly of inaction on climate, “Doing nothing is radical risk taking.” Read more of his compelling statements, part of the Weather Channel’s exciting “Climate 25” series.
Jerry Taylor, libertarian economist of the Niskanen Center (and formerly of the Cato Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council) is calling for a carbon tax. His reasoning? It could obviate regulations conservatives find loathsome, plus it could lower taxes.
Even the American Enterprise Institute held a seminar on April 22 (Earth Day!) called “Implementing a Carbon Tax: Practicalities and Prospects.” Read Myron Ebell’s blog post. (The Institute itself does not take policy positions.)
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I am always hopeful that we’ll soon reach the tipping point and decide as a nation to act on climate change. But after decades of pushing for meaningful action, at this point, it’s rare that I feel optimism. And yet, right now, with the eyes of the world on the Pope, and with conservative voices increasingly speaking out, I do feel optimism that we may be nearing broad consensus to #ActOnClimate.