1) The Republican Party has a history of positive climate policies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by Richard Nixon. The cap-and-trade method for limiting sulfur dioxide emissions was introduced by George Bush as the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. It was the world’s first large-scale pollutant cap and trade scheme. The program was extremely successful, resulting by 2007, a 43 percent reduction in 1990 levels despite an increase of 26 percent in electricity produced in coal-fired plants. Particularly attractive to conservatives was the possibility that the market could seek the least cost opportunity for reducing emissions. The Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 ran on a policy of cap and trade for greenhouse gas emissions.
2) Examining the policies of conservative parties in the European Union, “in the countries examined (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the U.K.) moderate conservative parties generally remain committed to climate-mitigation policy and renewable energy and energy efficiency policy, but there are some roll-backs of support, and there is variation in their support for fossil-fuel development… The study cautions against assuming an automatic linkage between far-right parties and opposition to energy-transition policies and against assuming that far-right parties will oppose all types of energy-transition policies”.1 Of course, the Republican Party can choose between being a moderately conservative party and a far right one.
3) At the city level, where climate adaptation is very important, climate change is more likely to be seen simply as the local climate initiatives including the risks and possible advantages. Republican mayors and local officials cannot refuse to work on these problems. All towns and cities must respond to climate change and migration. For example, Republican Miami Mayor, Francis X. Suarez has overseen a municipal bond initiative, the Miami Forever Bond, to combat rising sea levels and support affordable housing.
4) The reduction in photovoltaic and wind turbine costs of electricity is one of the key driving forces in the climate change transition. This together with energy efficiency is the basic building block of any green transition plan. The decade of 2010 to 2020 is a remarkable period of cost reduction: the global weighted-average LCOE (Levelized Cost of Electricity) of utility-scale solar PV for newly commissioned projects falling by 85% between 2010 and 2020, from $0.381/kWh to $0.057/kWh; the LCOE of residential PV systems also declined steeply between 49% and 82%, over the same period; for onshore wind projects, the global weighted-average cost of electricity between 2010 and 2020 fell by 56%, from $0.089/kWh to $0.039/kWh; and finally for concentrated solar power the global weighted-average cost of electricity fell 68% from $0.340/kWh to $0.108/kW. The conclusion is that new renewable capacity is not only increasingly cheaper than new fossil fuel-fired capacity, but increasingly undercuts the operating costs alone of existing coal-fired power plants.2
5) As in the case of photovoltaics and wind turbines, the role of R&D and the economies of scale have played an essential role. Unfortunately, in the case of photovoltaics we have not stimulated domestic development and production enough, and China (benefiting from their subsidies) is crushing our market, supplying 85 percent of the solar components. We cannot remain dependent on an unreliable supplier and economic adversary for our national energy security. Clean energy funding and tax credits for manufacturers are proposed.3 Analogous situations exist in advanced industrial processes, carbon sequestration, battery technology, electric cars, and geoengineering. Implied is the necessity for long-term technological research. We need, for example, many more DARPA projects for climate research. The US cannot afford to let China, or the EU, dominate the field.
6) It is getting harder to deny that the climate is changing in face of increasing climate and weather calamities. The U.S. has sustained 323 weather and climate disasters (with minimum costs of $1 billion dollars) since 1980. The total cost of these 323 events exceeds $2.195 trillion dollars. “In 2021, there were 20 weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion dollars each to affect the United States. These events included 1 drought event, 2 flooding events, 11 severe storm events, 4 tropical cyclone events, 1 wildfire event, and 1 winter storm event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 724 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted. The 1980–2021 annual average is 7.7 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2017–2021) is 17.8 events (CPI-adjusted).” 4 Recent research has also revealed how damaging climate change can be to childrens’ health, for example with wildfires in the western US, exposing seven million children to lung-damaging smoke, annually.5 We have the opportunity to try to prevent this. In general, air pollution from fossil fuels represents a great health cost; globally about four million premature deaths each year.6 Denial, in the face of such a magnitude of losses, is not effective.
7) The energy transition will produce an increase in jobs in the renewable sectors; however, the labor situation is more complex. We also need to care for the fossil fuel industry workers who suffer job losses and the renewable sector workers who are underpaid. The concept is that of a just transition. Both political parties need to work together to bring this about, for example with a fund to support workers in the fossil fuel and renewable sectors.7 According to the University of Princeton study, Net Zero America, the supply side energy workforce expands 15 percent in the first decade to about 0.4 million jobs, and grows by as much as 300 percent or 8 million additional jobs by 2050. In 2021, according to the DOE the five major energy industries: (electric power generation; motor vehicles; energy efficiency; transmission, distribution, and storage; and fuels) showed a net growth of 146,643 jobs, increasing faster than the general economy. The three states with the largest growth were Texas, Michigan, and California.
8) Climate change is a planetary phenomenon and successfully combating it requires global leadership. The US needs to make a climate compact with the major emitters. Nobel Lauriat William Nordhaus proposes a climate compact or club to protect the climate. "A climate compact is an agreement by participating countries to undertake harmonized emissions reductions, but nations would be penalized if they did not meet their obligations.”8 The lack of a penalty for not meeting obligations is the reason for the failure of climate agreements to date. The club with penalties could become the cornerstone of a new globalization. Republicans will want to negotiate this.
9) “Now, many in the Republican Party are coming to terms with what polls have been saying for years: independents, suburban voters and especially young Republicans are worried about climate change and want the government to take action. There is a recognition within the G.O.P. that if the party is going to be competitive in national elections, in purple states and purple districts, there needs to be some type of credible position on climate change,” said George David Banks, a former adviser to President Trump now a senior fellow at the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center, a centrist Washington think tank. Republicans realize it is now “a political liability” to dismiss or even avoid discussing climate change, he said.9 In 2021 Republicans in the House of Representatives formed the Conservative Climate Caucus within the House, with 73 members. The Chair of the Caucus, Utah congressman John Curtis, related that he started the group to show that Republicans cared about climate change and could offer policies to combat it.
10) A bipartisan gun law passed. Senator Joe Manchin reversed his hostile climate change position and is proposing a climate and tax plan that may have sufficient support to become law 10. Notably, the plan contains elements to fight inflation and to relax infrastructure requirements that are also Republican concerns. The G.O.P. needs a coherent climate policy to participate in the greatest economic, technological, and ecological transformation of our epoch.
1 Hess, David J., Renner, Madison (2019), “Conservative political parties and energy transitions in Europe: Opposition to climate mitigation policies, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 104, Page 419, ISSN 1364-0321.
2 Taylor, Michael, (2021),Wind, Solar: continuing cost declines will help meet rising renewables targets, July 19, Energypost.EU, Taylor, Michael, (2021),”Wind, Solar: continuing cost declines will help meet rising renewables targets”, July 19, Energypost.EU.
3 Holleyman, Robert, (2022), “China is crushing US solar,” July 12, The New York Times International Edition.
4 National Center for Environmental Information, (2022), Billion-Dollar Weather and climate Disasters, Overview, 11 July.
5 Perera, F., Nadeau, K, (2022), “A terrible blow to children’s health.” July 12, The New York Times International Edition.
6 Mebane, W., (2022), The forgotten war that nobody mentions, April 10th, Meer Magazine.
7 Cha, J.M., (2022), Save the Climate by Improving Jobs, July 6, Scientific American.
8 Nordhaus, William D., (2021), The Spirit of Green (pp. 290-291), Kindle edition, Princeton University Press, 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540.
9 Friedman, Lisa, (2021), Some Republicans Find Failure to Grapple With Climate Change a ‘Political Liability’, New York Times, June 23.
10 Cochrane, E., Tankersley J., Freedman, L., (2022), Manchin, in Reversal Agrees to Quick Action on Climate and Tax Plan, The New York Times, July 27.