If conservative candidates wish to win the hearts and minds of millennials, they will have to embrace a strategy to fight climate change. While Republican politicians debate whether or not climate change is due to human activity or is happening at all, millennials, including young Republicans, are unified on this issue. A June 2014 ABC-Washington Post poll shows that 61 percent of respondents who lean Republican between the ages of 18-49 believe the government should take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even if it means paying $40 more a month in energy bills. Overall, a majority of Republicans —and 54 percent of conservative Republicans— support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, according to a joint-survey done by Yale and George Mason University.
As a young Republican who has worked on political campaigns in central Florida, a region that is disproportionately impacted by climate change, I have personally seen how millennial voters have opted not to support Republican candidates based on lack of environmental policy.
What these conservatives don’t realize is that they have an opportunity to boost their image, win votes, and promote free enterprise and libertarian policy solutions by tackling the climate change issue head on rather than ceding the issue to liberals who use climate change as a vehicle for big-government policies.
Republicans have a long and unparalleled tradition of environmental stewardship. It was Teddy Roosevelt who established some of our first national parks. In the decades spanning the lifespan of the millennial generation, Ronald Reagan advocated for ratification of the Montreal Protocol, which phased out the global use of ozone-depleting chemicals. George H.W. Bush presided over the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and took a historic trip to Rio that marked the beginning of international cooperation on climate change. Here in Florida, Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) has said he is “sick and tired” of his party denying climate change science and wants to see conservative solutions to the problem. The party of conservation should be able to offer up a better solution than simple climate change denial.
That solution is environmental tax reform.
Unlike cap and trade and regulation schemes that require a large government apparatus to operate, a carbon tax can be implemented through the current annual tax filing system. In essence, a fixed fee would be placed on each metric ton of carbon an industry produces. The tax should be revenue neutral, legally requiring the government to reduce taxes in other areas to offset it. In addition, the plan should include a border adjustment, a fee imposed on imports from non carbon-taxing countries, which should address Donald Trump’s concern that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese to make America less competitive. British Columbia’s right of center government implemented this plan and has seen tremendous results. The province has seen a reduction in fuel usage by 16 percent, a $760 million reduction in provincial taxes, and a GDP per capita growth rate that has outpaced the rest of Canada since 2008. A carbon tax actually grows the economy because it does not increase the overall tax burden on individuals and spurs innovation by incentivizing businesses and individuals to reduce their carbon footprint.
There is no reason similar economic gains wouldn’t be seen in the United States. In fact, a study done by REMI shows we’d gain 2.1 million more jobs, reduce carbon emissions by 33 percent, and the resulting improvement in air quality would save 13,000 lives by 2025. This solution shrinks government by eliminating federal subsidies for all energy sources and repeals Obama’s EPA regulations, a long-time conservative objective.
Conservatives should support this common sense climate approach, and in doing so, would increase the Republican party’s appeal to millennial voters, create new jobs, spur innovation by using market forces, and force liberals to defend their costly, big government climate alternatives, a fight they would surely lose. I urge other young conservative to join republicEN.org, a community of conservative climate realists seeking a free enterprise solution to climate change, and make your voices heard.
Vernon Lindo is an Orlando native and member of the republicEn.org community. He will begin his freshman year at High Point University this fall where he plans to study Economics and Political Science.