Although global climate change does not rank very high on the list of concerns of the electorate, that list does provide some insights on how the Republican Party can seize the debate and move forward. There will always be a fringe on the Left who would like to return the American economy to the equivalent of pre-colonial America and they are a lost cause. The following is a series of steps that can be a winning message for the GOP with the more rational voters.
Step 1: Stop the Outright Denial of Climate Change. Polling indicates that about 67% of Americans believe in climate change. Compared to our international counterparts in terms of international problems, it ranks third from the bottom while it ranks at the top of their international concerns. United States policy, however, should not be dictated by the concerns of foreign countries.
Looking within those polling numbers, we find that 67% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats believe there is solid scientific evidence of climate change. The Democrats are tapping into this differential by trotting out the "scientific consensus" argument. The Left would like to shame the minority by labeling them "deniers" and then denying the "deniers" a voice. That is certainly undemocratic. Republican appeals to alternative scientific explanations is esoteric and lost on the average American.
The solution is not to attack the science (although it is admittedly flawed at times and only as good as the data input into the computer models). The idea is to tacitly accept the notion of climate change and acknowledge that increased carbon dioxide emissions may have had an effect. The bottom line is that it will not affect the remainder of the GOP strategy while bringing in independent voters.
2. Stress technology. There are several studies to illustrate that global temperatures have flat-lined over the past two decades. And practically every international study has shown that American carbon dioxide emissions have decreased over the years. How was this achieved?
This country does not belong to any cap-and-trade scheme on a national basis. Conservation efforts alone cannot explain the decreases. Instead, the US decrease was achieved through technological innovation mainly financed by private industry. One such example is the innovation of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas which emits lower levels of carbon dioxide than the burning of petroleum or coal. Natural gas consumption and extraction has risen in direct proportion to the decrease in US carbon dioxide emissions.
Although years away, the idea of "clean coal" is an idea worth pursuing by private industry. And the technology exists for carbon sequestration, but it's costs are prohibitively expensive at this time.
Nowhere is this idea of technology more evident than with the Keystone Pipeline. It is the solution in microcosm. The fact is that the environmental movement is not going to stop the extraction of oil in Alberta, Canada. The fact is that this oil will be refined somewhere. Given those facts, doesn't it make the greatest environmental sense to transport and refine that oil under the cleanest and most environmentally safe conditions in the United States? Leaving aside the good economic consequences of the Keystone Pipeline, the environmentalists need to face these facts and ask themselves: Do you want that oil transported by train to the West Coast of Canada, put on tankers, and sent to refineries in India, China and Singapore, OR do you want it transported safely by pipeline to state-of-the-environmental-art refineries in America?
3. Stress the Exportation of American Technology. Imagine the decrease in pollution worldwide if every country used superior American technology to extract and burn fossil fuels. Imagine the worldwide decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. Imagine the effect exportation of this technology would have on the $40 billion trade deficit the United States currently faces. Imagine the number of jobs this would create in the United States. Imagine America's perception in the world by being at the vanguard of workable carbon dioxide emission decreases. That is the creation of true green jobs.
4. Expose the Left's Solutions in Economic Terms. Economic issues dominate as the top concerns of American voters. The Left rails about income inequality, yet their environmental policies do everything to exacerbate the problem- especially at the lower ends of the income spectrum. Cap-and-trade was an unmitigated disaster in Europe that actually led to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions while creating a new breed of profiteer and fraudulent actors (George Soros being one).
The Left's solutions must be exposed for what they are- unwritten energy taxes on every household in America. Besides costing many jobs, Obama's attack on coal is estimated to cost the average American household anywhere from $400-$1,200 annually in increased heating costs. That is $400-$1,200 less in actual disposable income for every household in America. And for what? The US has decreased carbon dioxide emissions per capita over the past 20 years without a war on coal.
And since the EPA is at the forefront of this effort, reigning in that agency as part of the larger "big government run amok" theme is a winning message for the Republican Party. Polling indicates that voters believe the federal government is too large and too intrusive. What better way to tap into those sentiments by highlighting the foolish and expensive Leftist solutions in this area.
5. Illustrate the Left's Hypocrisy. God knows, there are enough examples out there. Al Gore's popularity took a great hit when the energy bill for his Tennessee mansion was revealed. He was exposed as a shrill huckster for the environmental Left lecturing America about global warming while doing his damn best to emit carbon dioxide. Such is the case with jet-flying environmental Leftist crowd. The same can be said of Tom Steyer and other notable environmentalists.
Their excuse? They purchase carbon footprint offsets (whatever that means). Its great Tom Steyer and Al Gore have the expendable income to buy these mythical offsets to make themselves feel good, but your average American does not. Highlighting their hypocrisy will marginalize them to the fringes.
6. Stress the Economic Impact on the Average American of Leftist Policy Solutions. As stated earlier, economic issues dominate at the top of the list of priorities of Americans. This translates into how you could keep more of what you earn. Leftist policies decrease those amounts through increased energy prices for heating your home or driving your car.
Despite billions of taxpayer dollars being used being dedicated to electric cars, for example, very few average Americans can afford them. And electricity for those cars still needs to be generated. Even where there is some success- hybrid vehicles- look at the problem created. Hybrid owners purchase less gas, thus the government takes in less gas tax revenue, thus they must make up for those shortfalls to repair transportation infrastructure. The roads are not being used any less. The solutions? Raise the gas tax, surcharge hybrid vehicle owners for lost revenue, or use other revenue sources.
There are numerous think tank studies showing the impact of Obama's policies on the economy. Even the liberal think tanks acknowledge some economic impact on the average American. Most Republicans would like to see less pollution and lower carbon dioxide emissions, but the cost should not be born on the backs of the average American or a fragile American economy. This theme needs to be seized and stressed.
7. Play the China Card. Listen to the populist rhetoric on the Left and its attacks on China for child labor, environmental plunder, unsafe products, etc. There is a lot of anti-China sentiment in the electorate. Ironically, China has surpassed the United States as the number one producer of carbon dioxide emissions.
The Republican Party can tap into this anti-China sentiment by highlighting the role they play in global climate change. If nothing else, it deflects attention from their domestic criticisms and solutions. The Republican Party can win some votes by casting China as an environmental pariah in a larger "reign in China" theme. A weaker China in all aspects compared to the United States is something I believe even the Left can get behind.
8. Stress the "All of the Above" Solution. We hear practically every Democratic candidate support an "all of the above" solution to American energy independence and carbon dioxide emission decreases. In reality, the "all of the above" solution often translates into an attack on fossil fuels in favor of "green solutions" like solar and wind power.
Yet hypocrisy still reigns. A wind farm is proposed off the coast of Cape Cod, but environmentalists block it because of migratory sea birds and a discredited obstruction of boat traffic argument. A solar farm is proposed in a desert (seems like a great place for one), but environmentalists block it because of a desert tortoise or insect.
Nowhere is this more evident than with nuclear energy. Despite all the scare tactics trotted out by the Left, nuclear energy is perhaps the cleanest and safest method of energy production. It produces almost zero carbon dioxide. Yet the Left remains opposed to nuclear energy. France is traditionally among the lowest producers of carbon dioxide in the European Union and internationally. They also derive 80% of their energy needs from nuclear power. Additionally, they- not us- have been at the forefront of nuclear recycling efforts. French cities actually compete for these sites because they provide high paying jobs. It is sad that France developed these techniques while the United States sits paralyzed afraid of nuclear power.
And the United States has ample reserves of uranium. Even if we didn't, some of our closest allies have large reserves- Canada, Australia, Czech Republic and Slovakia. I would rather import Australian or Canadian uranium rather than Saudi or Mexican oil. Noted environmentalist James Lovelock stated that if the world wanted to get serious about decreasing carbon dioxide emissions, they should embrace nuclear energy until such time technology develops to burn fossil fuels cleanly. Unfortunately, he was marginalized by the environmental Left and ignored.
And despite the scare tactics used, extracting and transporting oil from Alaska has had minimal, if any, environmental impact. One suspects that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve will have minimal impact also. While Cuba and other countries drill for oil off their coasts with inferior technology purchased from Russia and elsewhere, we dawdle and refuse to exploit our reserves with superior technology and safeguards. Do environmentalists honestly believe Cuba, Mexico or China are worrying about tortoises, scorpions and manatees?
Unfortunately, the Left has seized the public relations mantle with global warming as a wedge issue. It is unfortunate given the history of Republicans being at the vanguard of environmental stewardship. Part of it is self-inflicted. The Left has labeled the GOP a collection of "deniers" when that charge is patently false and to the extent it exists, it is a minority. The GOP should not outright deny climate change, but more importantly stress at what cost are the solutions? Do we embrace Leftist solutions and potentially collapse a fragile economy while achieving little to decrease global warming? Maybe that is their ultimate goal in their battle against capitalism in general. But a message that extols the virtues of American technological ingenuity while achieving the same goals AND creating jobs is a better message. The Republican alternatives are better and that should be the message. Let the Democrats and Leftists make fools of themselves with the Chicken Little doomsday messaging.