By Mary Anna Mancuso, RepublicEn.org
On Wednesday night, Republican presidential hopefuls will take the stage for the third presidential primary debate of 2023. As the nation tunes in, it is important to highlight the debate’s location in Miami, Florida.
With more than 1,300 miles of coastline, the Sunshine State is home to rising sea levels, coral bleaching and catastrophic hurricanes. And Miami is ground zero for climate change. The moderators have an opportunity to ask serious questions regarding the climate crisis, offering candidates the chance to usher the Republican Party into a new era for climate conservatives.
As moderators assemble their questions on domestic and foreign policy, they would be remiss to not ask key questions about climate change and the candidates’ plans to contend with the biggest existential threat to the world. Climate change is no longer a matter of speculation. The scientific consensus is clear: It’s happening. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, are driving global warming.
As Congressman John Curtis (R-UT) says, “We’ve been missing from the table for too long as conservatives.” With that spirit in mind, climate change conservatives hope that the moderators don’t default to the mainstream media’s favorite question: Do you believe in climate change? Instead, they should consider one of these questions intended to spark a more serious and grounded conversation on climate solutions:
Do you think free enterprise can solve climate change?
Conservatives love free enterprise solutions to problems; it’s part of our DNA and foundational to Republican policy solutions. The same can be true on climate change and it would be interesting to hear the presidential candidates, including several governors who have presided or do preside over states on the front lines of climate change, share their perspectives on this category of policy options.
Do you support carbon import fees that would hold heavy polluters such as China accountable?
A popular policy mechanism that is a topic of discussion led by GOP lawmakers is carbon import fees, which will help level the trade playing field for carbon-efficient American manufacturers while holding heavy polluters such as China and Russia accountable for their carbon emissions.
How will you ensure long-term solvency of the home insurance industry in Florida and other states, where residents live in homes at high risk of natural disasters?
Climate change brings not only rising temperatures but also an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. Florida is not the only state to recently suffer as insurance companies pull out, leaving homeowners without insurance. With home ownership the cornerstone of the American dream, the next president needs a plan that helps protect homeowners and home ownership while not asking taxpayers to bail out insurance companies.
While there may be differences in approach to fight against climate change, conservative principles and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive. Conservatives can champion market-based solutions, technological innovation and fiscal responsibility to address this global challenge.
A robust discussion within the party is essential to chart a path forward. Should the moderators be willing to ask the right climate-focused questions, the debate on Wednesday night offers the GOP a chance to engage in a substantive discussion about climate change and signal to the world the candidates are serious about finding solutions to one of the greatest challenges of our time.
History has shown that environmental stewardship is a deeply conservative value. It was Republican President Theodore Roosevelt who set aside millions of acres of land for conservation, laying the groundwork for our national park system. From Richard Nixon to George H.W. Bush, Republican presidents have a tradition of advocating for clean air and water, the pressing environmental issues during their respective terms.
It is time to re-embrace that legacy by coming to the table with viable climate solutions. After all, climate change doesn’t care if you live in a red state or a blue state. We are all at risk. I hope the debate provides the participating GOP candidates with the chance to address this critical challenge and demonstrate the party’s commitment to safeguarding our environment.
Mary Anna Mancuso is a political strategist and a spokesperson for RepublicEn.org, a growing group of conservatives who care about climate change.