Republicans need solutions on environment too

Republicans need solutions on environment too
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On climate change, the energy is on the left fringe of our political spectrum after the rollout of Alexandria Occasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” and its subsequent endorsement by multiple Democrats for President. Republicans rightly pilloried its deeply unserious elements — including plans to retrofit every single structure in the U.S. and guaranteed “economic security” to those “unable or unwilling to work” (why is this green?). Occasio-Cortez’s suggestion that we might face apocalypse in a dozen years added to the program a gleeful amateurism that makes supporters of radical action look, yes, juvenile.   

And yet…

The presence of such enthusiasm on the left, contrasted with a total dismissiveness of environmental and climate issues on the right, has placed the Republican Party somewhere between the Party of No and the Party of Get off My Lawn.

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America — and the world as a whole — does indeed face enormous environmental challenges in the 21st century, and our country deserves Republican politicians who are willing to address them, rather than sit back and make the popcorn as the left chases windmills. It is not sufficient to simply “stand athwart history and yell stop” — the main labor of William F. Buckley’s archetypal conservative — as industry, and an-ever expanding global consumer class, yell “more!”

The Republican Party, with its respect for market realities, would be well positioned to offer solutions from climate to consumption, and oceans to fisheries.

Call it global warming or climate change, the biggest of these challenges is our warming planet. A vast majority of voters, including a majority of those who label themselves “conservative Republicans,” believe that man’s actions are impacting our climate. Warmer weather is a fact — one that should not be dismissed just because many on the left get their science lessons from Bill Nye.

Adding a few degrees to the average summer temperature in our country will not only make D.C. more of a swamp, it will present incredible difficulties for our nation’s farmers and their exports, our water tables and electric grid, and the increasingly ferocious forest fires that gobble up ever-greater portions of state and federal budgets.

Technology and the markets can help. This includes natural gas fracking, which has lowered U.S emissions significantly by replacing dirty coal at scale, and a serious discussion of next-generation nuclear technology — which could power our nation, along with renewables, without emitting a single molecule of carbon. All of this requires vocal champions on Capitol Hill, and a debate that acknowledges benefits and trade-offs. And all of it this will need the Republican Party to engage.

Beyond climate, we face many pressing if unglamorous challenges.

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Global consumption is increasing exponentially as the standard of living rises worldwide, from East Asia — and a Chinese consumer class that no longer tolerates being the world’s dumping grounds for used electronics and recycling — to an African continent with a burgeoning middle class. Conservatives should rightly applaud market-driven innovations that raise prospects for the formerly impoverished, but we ought to pay attention to our levels of consumptions and how our planet will be affected if its billions of residents start consuming like Americans.

And water issues may become increasingly pressing as droughts increase, ocean fisheries are pushed to collapse, and pollution from China and elsewhere creates floating trash islands twice the size of Texas in the central Pacific.

If all of this sounds like a bore, that’s because the fundamental truth — that humankind may have to limit the scope of our consumption in order to sustain ourselves — is not all that fun to acknowledge. But acknowledge it we must, because it is reality.

The Republican Party is not bereft of leaders thinking about this. Senator Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Lawyer: Flynn will keep cooperating after co-conspirator revelations Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act exposes Silicon Valley's hollow diversity slogans MORE (R-Ky.) made a minor splash in 2013 when he declared himself a conservationist. More recently, Florida’s energetic new Republican governor, Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisDeSantis wants statue of civil rights activist to replace Confederate figure on Capitol Hill Florida couple wins right to plant vegetables in front yard after years-long legal battle Former sheriff running for reelection after suspension over Parkland shooting MORE, has earned positive press and sky-high approval ratings in part due to his aggressive and vocal efforts to clean up Florida waterways.

And Republicans who aren’t stirred by the bunnies and the trees need simply check the polling, as DeSantis’ team surely has. Democrats are trusted to lead on the environment and climate, which younger voters — growing in electoral clout — rank higher than ever. Republicans simply are not.

America may or may not be headed for environmental calamity in the near term, but if it doesn’t take our environmental problems seriously, the Republican Party may face electoral extinction.

Albert Eisenberg is a Philadelphia-based political consultant who works on LGBT and urban issues from the right. He formerly served as communications director for the Philadelphia Republican Party and director of social media for the Young Republicans National Federation. Follow him on Twitter @Albydelphia