By Andrew Magloughlin
Today, American politics is a disdainful struggle between increasingly polarized partisanship. Since many of us American University students are aspiring public servants, we’ll wield future influence over the solutions to our great nation’s problems. We must look not only to represent our best interests, but to reach across the aisle, build consensus, and ensure that substantive progress results from our political endeavors. To exemplify consensus building, the respective blogs representing AU College Democrats and AU College Republicans are collaborating to tackle controversial issues. This piece represents the Republican opinion on the alarming issue of climate change; its sister-piece represents the Democrat opinion. Although both pieces display contrasting opinions, the articles collectively forge an impactful and reasonable agreement. The AU College Republicans urge our viewers to also read the supplementary Democrat article.
Our planet faces the potentially devastating threat of climate change. As planetary temperature increases, sea levels rise, and ecosystems adapt to rapid reformations, our two American political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, engage in an impassioned and polarized ideological battle. Typically, Democrats embody the sentiment that human activity causes climate change, which must be solved through strict environmental regulations. Republicans, on the other hand, acknowledge the existence of climate change, but believe it derives mostly from natural temperature cycles and minimally from human activity. Before delving into the climate change conundrum itself, I anticipate some readers will argue that Republicans dismiss all notions and scientific evidence of climate change. This is simply not true. At the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, the United States Senate voted on two amendments that defined climate change. The first proposition, which acknowledged the existence of climate change, passed almost unanimously with a 98-1 vote; only Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) dissented. The second vote, proposing an amendment to the first, identified the human race as the main climate change perpetrator. It failed to reach the sixty necessary votes at a 50-49 standoff. So yes, Republicans do believe in climate change, but they don’t attribute it to humanity.
Basically, Republicans oppose environmental regulations because regulations cripple businesses in a structurally stagnated economy. Environmental regulations, such as steep nonrenewable energy taxes, abruptly hinder business production methods. With the United States stuck in economic doldrums, imposing both restrictions and costly adaptations on businesses worsens our situation. Businesses struggle adhering to gargantuan fixed costs, such as the purchase of renewable energy sources, replacement of coal and diesel powered machinery for natural gas technology, and pollution containment, which effectively exterminate success in a competitive market. Would Republicans support implementation of some of the aforementioned improvements in the future? Absolutely. In fact, renewable energy potentially lowers long-term production costs.
Former United States Republican Congressman, Senator, and Virginia Governor George Allen spoke of the importance of renewable energy investment during his College Republicans speech at American University. Allen claimed that renewable energy, specifically hydroelectric power, nanotechnology, and solar energy will reduce production costs and transform our relationship with the environment. Nanotechnology is an especially profound prospect, provoking Senator Allen and Democrat Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to establish the National Nanotechnology Program. Senator Allen explains the vast benefits of nanotechnology research:
As a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Transportation, and Space, I held the first congressional hearings on nanotechnology. The committee quickly recognized that the fields of nano-science, nano-engineering, and nanotechnology have the real potential to transform almost every aspect of our lives and commerce. Whether it is related to electronic devices, biotechnology, the health sciences, agriculture, energy, transportation, or national defense, nanotechnology will form the foundation for revolutionary discoveries and advancements in the decades to come, and will soon occupy a major portion of our economy.
Essentially, Republicans do invest in renewable energy sources. But currently, the short-term fixed costs of implementing renewable energy is too imposing for small businesses, therefore eliminating the long-term benefits of cheaper production and improved public health. For now, Republicans believe that returning to economic prosperity outweighs protecting the environment.
Realistically, there may be a middle ground between economic prosperity and environmental conservation. Texas Governor Rick Perry implemented the Texas Emissions Reductions Plan (TERP), which instead of establishing mandatory provisions, provides incentives to businesses that willingly reduce their carbon footprint. One of TERP’s provisions provides grants allocated towards businesses willing to replace heavy-duty diesel burning vehicles with alternative energy sources. Under Governor Perry’s leadership, TERP’s results are impressive. During Perry’s term, Texas’ population gained 5.6 million people, along with 1.3 million new jobs. Concurrently, Texas nitrogen oxide levels decreased by 62.5 percent, ozone levels by 23 percent, sulfur dioxide by 50 percent, and carbon dioxide by 9 percent. Perry attributed both natural gas and wind-power to his environmental success. Programs modeled after TERP should be ignited to bipartisanship regarding climate change. State governments will provide benefits to businesses that successfully reduce environmental damage. Since environmentally conscious businesses receive government subsidies and utilize renewable energy, they’ll enjoy long-term reduction in production costs and government-provided excess assets. As a result, the green businesses will prosper, successfully reducing climate change.
An immediate counterargument from environmentally conscious Democrats and liberals alike is that we don’t have time for incentive based policy. Environmentalists cite statistics depicting current climate change rates as the most rapidly accelerating in Earth’s history. Therefore, the environmental buffer effect, where the planet slowly adapts to changing climates, diminishes to a paltry nature. Earth’s former resilience won’t be exhibited in the presence of extreme temperature acceleration. Proponents of this information deem that strict regulations are the only solution to climate change. Who cares about the economy if we’re physically dying? My immediate reaction to these claims is that climatologists are recurrently wrong in their predictions. In the 1970s, scientists touted an alarming rate of “global cooling,” which didn’t happen. Of course, technology has vastly improved since the 70s, but the same fallacy happened again when climate change activist Al Gore claimed that the North Pole will be completely liquidated by 2014. Here we are in 2015, and the North Pole is still frozen. Climatology is a mercurial science; there are endless sources of error and blatantly wrong extrapolations in expert predictions.
Regardless of the current political climate, there is room for substantive bipartisan environmental policy. Currently, imposing environmental regulations are too dangerous for the fragile United States economy. Instead, programs modeled similarly to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s TERP will protect our environment while promoting market competition. Democrats and Republicans certainly can agree that environmental incentives for businesses willing to reduce their pollution footprints are necessary for both a sustainable planet and public health. Instead of bickering over the cause of climate change, we should embrace environmental incentives, and revel in their ensuing progress. As American University students and aspiring public servants, let’s champion the cause.