By Carter Mermer, Turning Point USA
As we sail into summer, scorching hot days await. The environmental trend lines are troubling.
During my lifetime, temperatures across Florida are likely to rise significantly, bringing increased droughts and heat waves, more severe hurricanes, sea-level rise and flooding. At risk is not only the natural beauty of our state, but also the economy it powers. Climate change threatens to erode Florida’s tourism industry, reduce property value and shrink our economy.
As this year’s president of the University of Florida’s Turning Point USA chapter, a conservative non-profit organization, I know that addressing climate change should be an American priority — and I’m not alone.
The vast majority of young Republicans are concerned about the risks of climate instability and support real solutions. With decades of life ahead, we recognize action is needed to protect our quality of life and ensure America’s continued prosperity.
At the same time, we know that liberal policies like the Green New Deal are the wrong approach for our country. The left’s command-and-control proposals would harm the economy, cost jobs and flush trillions of dollars down the drain.
What’s more, many of these “climate policies” would do little to actually address the problem. The original Green New Deal resolution, for example, calls for a guaranteed federal income, universal health care and guaranteed paid vacations — all unrelated policies plucked from the progressive wish list.
Instead of allowing the left to exploit climate change to advance its big-government agenda, conservatives should advance a superior free-market strategy that actually delivers results. That is the best way to stop the Green New Deal and ensure that the U.S. embraces a responsible solution that puts the American economy first.
House Republicans are beginning to lead by proposing policies like the Energy Innovation Agenda, which would invest in a handful of clean energy industries. While this is a good place to start, the GOP should champion a comprehensive, market-based solution that can accelerate the adoption of clean energy at scale.
If Republicans don’t offer a plan that matches the magnitude of the challenge, we will cede the climate policy debate to the left, giving them free rein to advance the Green New Deal.
Luckily, there is a free-market, innovation-driven, bipartisan proposal gaining traction that would remedy the climate problem while also limiting the size of government and returning money to the American people: the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan.
Developed by conservative economists and American business leaders, the plan would charge fossil fuel companies a gradually rising fee for their emissions. This would create an incentive in the marketplace that encourages clean energy investment and innovation. As new technologies get better and cheaper, the market would naturally transition toward cleaner energy.
The Baker-Shultz approach is so effective that a starting carbon fee of just a few pennies per pound would deliver more than three times the emissions reductions of all Obama-era regulations combined.
With a market solution in place, the Baker-Shultz plan would roll back unnecessary regulations and instead give businesses and entrepreneurs the freedom to thrive. Despite what many on the left claim, solving the climate challenge does not require a runaway bureaucracy. We do not need big government to do big things.
In further contrast to a regulatory approach, the Baker-Shultz plan would clean the environment while also generating revenue. All proceeds from the fee assessed on fossil fuel companies would be returned directly to the American as quarterly dividends.
Perhaps most important, the Baker-Shultz Plan would implement a border fee on the carbon content of goods imported from overseas. This would help hold countries — like China, Russia and India —accountable for their emissions and compel them to follow America’s lead. What’s more, because U.S. businesses are already cleaner and more efficient than our foreign competitors, this border adjustment would enhance the competitiveness of American industry and expand manufacturing here at home.
Instead of a far-left climate agenda that kneecaps our country’s prosperity, the Baker-Shultz plan would put the American people first. It would be a win for Americans of all political stripes. Further, thanks to the dividend, it would ensure that the fruits of clean energy innovation are truly felt across the country, especially among a working class often forgotten in the policymaking process. That would be a victory for our environment, our businesses and our economy.
Here in Florida, as we stare down some of the most serious risks of a changing climate, the time is right for our elected leaders to act. Especially as my generation grows in political numbers and influence, climate action is becoming not only good policy, but also good politics.
Carter Mermer served as the 2020-21 president of the Turning Point USA chapter at the University of Florida.
This essay first appeared in The Gainesville Sun.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.