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The GOP Goes Pragmatic



Pragmatic: Dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations

I’m so excited, even though this may be a bit premature; but it seems as though the elders of the Republican Party have come to the nation’s rescue regarding climate change. They may not be entirely sure that human activity is the main cause of warming, but they are saying,”We need to do something.”

And when I say party “elders,” I mean exactly that. The gentlemen who have come out in support of a carbon tax as “a conservative climate solution” include James Baker (86), George Schultz (96), Henry Paulson (70), and Martin Feldstein (77) among others. They all have impeccable Republican credentials, having served in the administrations of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. You can’t get any better than that, right?

But here is another great point: They have been mobilized by a relatively young man named Ted Halstead (48), who could be a very important figure regarding polarizing issue for a long time to come. He is the founder and chief executive of the Climate Leadership Council and a rising star in the firmament of the reasonable. He claims no party affiliation.

Click on his link, and you’ll find that Halstead is extremely intelligent and driven as well as handsome–though not my type–and he has co-authored a book called The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics. Don’t you love that term “radical center”? I am so sick of the intense political enmity of recent years that it makes me weepy with hope.

Now back to the carbon tax proposal. It’s really very simple. It would begin at about $40 per ton of emissions, which would raise $200 billion to $300 billion a year. The money would be returned to consumers as an annual “carbon dividend” in the amount of about $2,000 for a family of four. The purpose is to discourage the production of emissions. It is claimed that the tax is “a free-market solution” that promotes “small government,” music to the ears of conservatives.

 Time is Running Out

Time is Running Out

Great, right? But it’s been a long time in coming. In fact, the carbon tax was first proposed in 1974 by David G. Wilson, an MIT engineer. Unfortunately, he was given no credit in this recent initiative. And it was James Hansen, PhD, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who was the first to testify to Congress on global warming concerns in 1988. He also was largely disregarded.

In 1997,  Halstead organized a statement on climate change with the help of five university luminaries in economics. Its purpose was to promote market-based solutions, stating that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate” and declaring that “preventive steps are justified.” It was signed by over 2,6oo other economists and 18 Nobel Laureates. Unfortunately, it had little effect.

In fact, aggressive opposition mobilized in 2006. This was when Al Gore took up the cause of educating the public about global warming with the documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”  The fact that he was a Democrat went a long way toward destroying interest among Republicans, science or no science.

And of course, the fossil fuel industry freaked out over the issue. Corporations had enormous amounts of capital invested in energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas; and they were determined to extract it until Earth was as withered as a black prune. Never mind that they had enough money to invest in the development of alternative energy to make America an enduring world leader in this field. Instead, they invested heavily, along with the Koch Brothers who have huge holdings in this sector, in encouraging everyone to question the science of climate change.

Fortunately, activists have been working to promote the selloff of energy industry stock, and corporations are beginning to take note. In fact, in a recent interview, James Baker said that many oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, have come out in favor of the carbon tax. This is due in part to the desire to escape the regulations pending in President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which the tax would replace.

Phew. Maybe now we can get somewhere with this issue. After all, the commitment to mitigate emissions could inspire a surge of creativity that would result in new products and countless new jobs. I’m speaking not only of innovations in alternative energy but also enterprises committed to construction and products that will protect us against impending climatic changes very damaging to property and agriculture.

ChumpsI know that many people are anticipating a new ice age rather than global warming for their own reasons–like their peach blossoms froze last year. However, the word within the scientific community is that climate change is advancing much faster than was originally projected. Unanticipated factors like the methane gas released by melting permafrost keep accelerating it.

Preparing for climate makes sense on many fronts, but continuing to debate the degree to which humans are responsible for it is a waste of time. It would be like waiting for some beneficial astrological lineup to prompt Congress to address this critical issue. If they continue to stall, we should just conscript some “radical centrists” to serve in their place.

In researching this blog, I ran into commentary in the Boston Globe by Stephen Kinzer about how the US seems to be turning into a “fading superpower.” He  pointed out how nations naturally rise and decline over the course of time, but we have never been through that and are not psychologically prepared. He went on to say that as we evolve, the skill we will need more than any other to remain a world power is in coalition-building. If we can’t develop that skill to resolve this issue in our own country, I guess we’re sunk.


3 Responses to “The GOP Goes Pragmatic”

  1. Jan Harris

    Mr Halstead’s plan sounds great and I am happy to see that finally, maybe, we will be seeing some changes. I am wondering how we will implement and what loopholes heavy emissions producers will be allowed. In my mind, those who are now causing the emissions, refusing to support alternative energies, and raping the planet, are the same ones who manipulate the tax laws.

  2. Orwell or Aldous Huxley? Les Fenter

    Ellen, as you mention, scientists are in general agreement that we are undergoing Global Warming. What they are not in agreement on is the cause. Now. . .let’s just consider our national/international response to this issue.
    1. If we ignore the warming and we humans ARE the cause — Stupid and deadly.
    2. If we reduce our carbon footprints, and there is no change, nothing lost.
    3. If we reduce our footprints and it helps? Win, win.

    So what’s the big deal? OIL industry and their influence. I prefer to ride a bike at this age anyway..

  3. Michaela Buhler

    Watching yesterday’ s Trump press conference, I have concluded we are sunk already!