The populist climate policy conservative millennials can get behind

The populist climate policy conservative millennials can get behind
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Contrary to popular belief that millennials are an apolitical, avocado toast-addicted generation who care only about YouTube and fidget-spinners, we are collectively raising our political voice in record numbers.

Where older adults have failed to promote the common good, the millennial generation — now the largest voting bloc in America — is stepping in to flex our political muscle and move the needle in a way nothing else has. The latest wave centers on climate change, the most important issue to millennials.

Young adults, like the Students for Carbon Dividends (S4CD), are working to re-shape environmental advocacy for the next generation, and open the door to a much-needed bipartisan climate breakthrough.


Students are uniting around a concrete climate solution — and for the first time in U.S. history a chorus of college Republican groups are publically backing a national climate plan.


At the heart of this alliance is a basic premise that we all learned in our introductory economics courses: a carbon tax is the most simple, efficient, and cost-effective way to reduce emissions. Putting a price on carbon to reflect its true social costs would harness the full power of market forces to spur innovation and catalyze a transition to the low carbon economy we all yearn for. But despite its impeccable economic logic, a stand-alone carbon tax has proven to be a political dead end, largely because it is unpopular and regressive.

But what if all the money raised were returned directly to the American people? Then a carbon tax could morph into a popular — and populist — solution. The concept is as easy to explain as it is appealing: What if the government cut you a check every month to help solve climate change?

Harvard economist N. Gregory Mankiw — whose best-selling economics textbook has been read by millions of students worldwide — recently called this carbon dividends plan “the closest thing I have seen to a panacea.”

Mankiw —among the who’s who of other Republican elder statesmen, including James Baker and George Shultz — introduced the proposal last year. Since then, a surprisingly broad coalition, ranging from fossil fuel companies to major environmental organizations, and from Lawrence Summers to Stephen Hawking, have publically backed this carbon dividends solution.

Why this breadth of support? Because this approach could unlock significantly greater emissions reductions than all current and prior climate regulations combined, while being pro-growth, pro-jobs, and pro-competitiveness to boot. According to the Department of Treasury, 223 million Americans — including the most vulnerable — would receive more in carbon dividends than they would pay in increased energy prices.

By recruiting diverse students, S4CD is adding a distinctly youth-oriented perspective and strategy to this cause — much like the broad coalition of businesses, NGOs, and opinion leaders that supports the Baker-Shultz carbon dividends plan.

In particular, we are charting a new course on college campuses through social media campaigns. Every time a politician visits one of our campuses, we will seize the opportunity to promote our carbon dividends solution.

In doing so, we will provide a welcome alternative to the campus divestment movement. For too long, the lone outlet for students concerned about mounting climate risks has been fossil fuel divestment campaigns, which are long on symbolism but short on progress. Young Americans deserve a better way to channel their deep-seated climate concern, one that can actually reduce emissions at the required scale and speed.

Students add national momentum to the growing chorus of support for the Baker-Shultz carbon dividends plan. Where others have failed to lead, the next generation of Republicans and Democrats are rising to the occasion.

Alex Posner is the founding president of Students for Carbon Dividends (S4CD). S4CD includes 23 college Republican clubs, six college Democratic clubs and five college environmental groups. They span the Ivy League, Big 10 schools, and the geographic expanse of the United States.