Why Environmental Capitalism Matters

**Views expressed here reflect those of the author and not necessarily those of ACC as a whole.

The most recent UN report on climate change, specifically on carbon dioxide emissions, confirms that this is a matter we must take seriously. The US once again reduced its carbon emissions at a faster rate than any other nation in 2017, and it is imperative that the world follow our example. Despite persistent calls for aggressive environmental regulation, this year’s Nobel Prize winning economists, Paul Romer and William Nordhaus, found that in addition to governmental action, the private sector must be actively involved to mitigate the effects of climate change. If measures are not taken, the US will continue to see more severe storms, higher sea levels on our coastal cities, and a myriad of other challenges that cause harm to our country and our economy.

Their work reveals several positive takeaways for those who value the free-market and limited government, but also wish to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Romer, while researching  the factors that support economic growth, stressed the importance of the private sector creating new technologies to spur the economy, saying that “the country that takes the lead in the twenty-first century will be the one that implements an innovation that supports the production of commercially relevant ideas in the private sector.” He went on to say that we must continue innovating to develop new technologies to keep our economy growing, which supports the idea that the creation of new ways to produce clean, efficient energy is good for both the climate and the economy. Clean energy is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy, and continued growth and innovation in the clean energy sector will only further bolster the American economy.

The bottom line is that the world needs to cut down on its carbon footprint to mitigate the effects of climate change, including, but not limited to, rising sea levels on coastal cities, harsher storms, and lower crop yields. America has been a leader in reducing carbon emissions in recent years, and it is vital that we continue this trend while encouraging the world’s biggest polluters, chiefly India and China, to follow our example. The business sector is often criticized by the Left for its role in contributing to climate change. In turn, those on the Right react strongly to policy proposals that involve heavy regulation. It is not an either-or situation, as Romer and Nordhaus have shown that economic growth can be achieved while still reducing carbon emissions. Both are supporters of free-market capitalism, and neither advocate for its downfall to solve the world’s climate challenges. They concluded that some government action will be necessary to keep global cooling below 1.5 degrees Celsius, but also noted the importance of keeping the free market intact and allowing for private sector innovation. Romer’s research on technological advancement will be crucial for the renewable energy sector of our economy, a sector that we must make sure continues its rapid rate of growth.

The work of Romer and Nordhaus affirms the importance of the work being done by Carlos Curbelo, Elise Stefanik, and many other Republicans in Congress to bring conservatives to the table on this issue. The GOP’s environmental record in past years often discredits them when they try to address the situation, which is counterproductive for both the party and the country. These are bipartisan matters that must be addressed as such, which means that Republicans have to be aware of and take action on climate change and how to combat its effects from a free-market perspective.

What should conservatives do? There are a number of things. First, GOP candidates should embrace pro-environmental platforms and show a commitment to further lowering our CO2 emissions. This means making these issues a part of the official GOP platform, and to inform their constituents of their importance. Second, they must fight the stereotype that Republicans don’t care about the environment. All elected Republicans should make concentrated efforts to change the narrative regarding their environmental reputations, making substantive media appearances  Finally, they must propose conservative policy solutions to reduce CO2 emissions. As Paul Romer stated, tax credits for research and development or the pursuit of renewable energy are feasible. Creating a regulatory environment where renewable energy can innovate and thrive is essential for its continued success. It is paramount that they continue to do so in the 21st century to continue to lower America’s carbon footprint.

The time to act is now, and Republicans must take smart action to strike a balance between environmental concerns and economic growth. Not only are there free market solutions to address these concerns, but young people agree that this is an issue that must be addressed. Over 80% of young conservatives are concerned with the way that we get our energy, and the GOP would be foolish to ignore their voices. Americans and world citizens alike deal with the effects of a warming planet, and there is no time like the present to take action.

Spencer McLaughlinComment