Viewpoint

True conservatives should worry about climate change

Burning coal increases carbon dioxide in the air. It’s not a conservative value to not worry about what we are leaving our children.
Burning coal increases carbon dioxide in the air. It’s not a conservative value to not worry about what we are leaving our children. AP

In response to “Rolling back climate regulations with questionable benefits will boost US economy” (March 31 online column):

Just as I hope we do not ignore the national debt we are leaving to our children, I also hope we do not ignore the climate debt we are handing off to the next generation. Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo said it well: “Ignoring climate change is as irresponsible as ignoring this country’s fiscal debt.”

The Observer highlighted Nicolas Loris’ views on an appropriate path on climate change, which appeared to ignore the problem and only attack solutions. Readers should know that this is not the only voice representing conservatives.

Our ability to use the energy provided by burning fossil fuels has increased our standard of living, our ability to feed the world and our longevity. Burning fossil fuels has also increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – by a substantial amount. Through almost all of recorded human history the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air was around 285 ppm and our climate was relatively stable. Over the last 150 years, as we increasingly found ways to take advantage of the energy stored in coal, oil and natural gas, we increased the concentration of carbon dioxide to over 400 ppm – and the concentration is going up every year, year over year. This change is observed over the entire planet, and has consequences we did not anticipate when we invented the automobile or installed the pipelines for natural gas to heat our homes.

To follow Mr. Loris’ recommendations will push the concentration of carbon dioxide above 400 ppm. We are now aware that these choices have consequences for us, for our children and for generations to come. The moral choice has been different over the last 30 years than it was for our grandparents. Mr. Loris cannot simply argue for a limited set of jobs helped by fossil fuels without also accepting the burden we now understand – such as rising sea levels, abnormal precipitation leading to droughts in some areas and flooding or mudslides in others.

It is not a conservative value to ignore our impacts on those around us or on the economic conditions we leave for our kids. Thankfully, there are conservative voices speaking out on this issue.

Fifteen House Republicans have joined the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus to hold meaningful discussions on what can be done. And, in March, 17 House Republicans co-sponsored House Resolution 195, asking the House to commit to a constructive dialogue to support economically viable solutions to address climate change. Outside of Congress, groups like the Niskanen Center, RepublicEns, and Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship continue to speak out. During 2017 a suite of senior Republicans joined the chorus as the Climate Leadership Council with a strong policy suggestion.

There are conservatives and Republicans supporting a true America First energy policy that does not discard our coastal communities and does not simply tell our kids that climate change is one more issue we are leaving for them to deal with – like our national debt and unsustainable non-discretionary spending.

Tolbert is an environmental scientist and registered Republican who lives in Asheville.

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