The politics of climate change have evolved rapidly this year as the consequences of rising temperatures continue to affect Americans across the country. Some of that evolution, particularly among Republicans, has been constructive. But the politics remain dynamic and, in the long run, will force legislative action, perhaps not soon enough but eventually.
Overall, both parties are mired by members that, simply put, are not helpful—a few persistent deniers on the right and those on the left who continue to weaponize climate change to discredit Republicans or advance a broad social agenda.
The majority of Republicans no longer deny climate change and respect the science, and a few Republican members of Congress have proposed solutions. During a recent House Committee on the Budget hearing on the costs of climate change, Representative Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) urged his colleagues to “look at trends and be data driven, realistic and also be economically feasible in our solutions.”
However, Republican members continue to struggle to identify solutions to climate change that are consistent with conservative values and can address the scope of the problem. They are contemplating regulations, subsidies, or a tax. They do not like regulations (nixing cap-and-trade policies once supported by the party) but are considering subsidies (e.g., 45Q) because they are effective and popular, particularly among industries.
More recently, a couple of those members (ones the Alliance for Market Solutions believes will eventually prevail) are considering a carbon tax. This solution is already widely supported by economists and businesses, making it increasingly acceptable to talk about, especially for Republicans in the context of tax reform.
Several carbon tax bills were introduced before the August recess. Most notably, Ambassador Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) introduced a bill that would use most of the revenue generated by the carbon tax to reduce payroll taxes—a pro-growth approach that would protect the environment and American prosperity as well as serve as a model for other countries trying to reduce carbon pollution. His leadership is a significant step forward for Republicans and will be instrumental in the party’s ability to make progress.
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats continue to drift further left, embracing the unrealistic, detail-starved Green New Deal, which overshadows less ambitious, potentially effective proposals offered by the party. A recent article in E&E News summed up their progress on addressing climate change to date, noting that “nine months after Democrats won back the House, all they have to show for it heading into the August recess is a few appropriations amendments, a messaging bill that will never get a vote in the Senate and a plan to make a plan.”
Despite the less constructive members of either party, Congress is primed to continue to discuss and identify solutions to address climate change and make more, necessary progress in coming years.