It’s official: the Democratic race for 2020 has become the Climate Change Primary. In just the past couple of months, CNN, MSNBC, and even the Weather Channel have all held climate change forums with 2020 presidential candidates. That’s a lot of time dedicated to haggling over whose multi-trillion-dollar climate plan goes furthest.
Republicans would be right to assume that the left's job-killing, price-raising, government-growing "solutions" for climate change are out of step with the American mainstream. But they would be wrong to assume that it will be easy to exploit this vulnerability in the general election. Why? Because if Republicans are still ignoring climate change entirely, voters will see them as more extreme than Democrats.
A new Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll finds that a rising number of Americans believe climate change is a crisis and that urgent action is needed. Two-thirds say President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE is doing too little to tackle the problem. Some are even pointing to the recent elections in Virginia, where Democrats won back the state House and Senate for the first time in over 20 years, as a clear sign that climate change is a deciding campaign issue. The only way Republicans can prevent Democrats from using this as a wedge in 2020 is to have an alternative of their own. If that alternative is good enough, the GOP could easily flip the climate issue to their own advantage.
For some small government Republicans, any solution may be hard to identify, but climate change is a problem that demands an answer, so our fellow Republicans have to pick (or lose at the ballot box). To find the truly conservative solution, they should look to their conservative roots for a pro-growth proposal that doesn’t grow the size of government.
The best idea is a pro-growth, revenue neutral carbon tax. All proceeds from the tax could be used to permanently lower other taxes like the payroll tax, which would offset any price hikes for consumers. Further, the carbon tax would replace climate-related federal regulations and subsidies.
This would create a free market incentive for companies and consumers to reduce CO2 while simultaneously growing the economy and shrinking the size of government. Win, win, win.
This contrasts powerfully with Democratic proposals. The left’s answer is either a flash flood of taxpayer money (Sanders’ climate plan would cost $16 trillion) or a wrecking ball of federal regulations (Warren would use the federal register to decarbonize all electricity, vehicles, and buildings). Usually it’s both.
The far left’s ideas are a political vulnerability waiting to be exploited. They would drag us into a recession, raise prices for consumers, and cost countless jobs. For example, most Democratic primary contenders have vowed to ban all fracking, which would mean job loss for thousands of workers in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Texas—all critical states.
Further, the price hikes from Democratic regulations and tax increases would not sit well with American consumers. The same Washington Post/KFF poll that shows Americans care about climate change also shows that they don’t want to pay for it. While roughly half of Americans believe action is urgently needed within the next decade, less than 3 in 10 are willing to pay even $10 extra a month.
This would make every Democrat’s proposal a nonstarter. If only there was a viable alternative. The American people would jump at a climate idea that didn't cost them their jobs or drain their bank account. So why don't Republicans seize this opportunity?
President Trump and the GOP won’t be able to exploit the weakness of the Democratic approach when they leave themselves so exposed to the counterattack that they don't even take climate change seriously.
The revenue-neutral carbon tax is a political victory in waiting. This one simple policy can address the climate crisis, replace costly regulations, and fund further tax breaks for the American people. That makes it pro-environment, pro-growth, and a political winner for Republicans in swing states and districts.
Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloDirect air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy Biden's corporate tax hike is bad for growth — try a carbon tax instead Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE was a Member of the House of Representatives representing Florida from 2015-2019, where he co-founded and co-chaired the Climate Solutions Caucus. Alex Flint is the executive director of the Alliance for Market Solutions, and previously served as staff director of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.