Time to start making the real conservative argument on climate change

Climate change is an issue that millennials care a lot about. This makes sense, of course, they are the group that stands to lose the most from climate change effects. What’s more, majorities of millennials believe in anthropomorphic, or man-made, climate change. So why do conservatives keep making these ridiculous statements about it being a hoax and mortgaging the future of the party?

Okay, fine. I didn’t exactly pull from the brightest bulbs in the conservative movement there, and I can’t stand Bill Nye either. And yes, there are issues with how the scientific consensus is being presented in the media today; for instance, that 97% figure that is so often repeated is probably a little bit off. But the point is that conservatives who know nothing at all about climate science should stop staking their entire argument on the very slim hope that all those climate scientists are wrong.

For the record, I believe that climate change is real, and I believe that it is caused by humans. I believe that because I am not a climate scientist, and real climate scientists are telling me so. Conservatives sometimes go into ultra-conspiracy territory on this issue, believing that all these scientists have been paid off as part of a scheme to create profits for green energy companies. Look, if they accomplished that…well, congratulations, they tricked me. Odds are they didn’t though. Could you imagine how absurd it would seem if our political opponents just ignored the economic consensus that, say, raising the minimum wage costs jobs– wait. Well, that’s how they feel about conservatives on this issue. They believe we see the truth as inconvenient, and easier to just ignore. Let’s stop ignoring, and start making the conservative argument.

There are two elements to this conservative argument. The first part is an acknowledgment that, while there is a near-scientific consensus that climate change is caused at least partially by humans, we don’t know how much we can do about it. Almost universally, the “solutions” progressives propose to tackle climate change would devastate the economy. The carbon tax Senator Boxer and Senator Sanders have proposed alone would kill a million jobs and shrink the economy by $2.5 trillion by 2030, and this is just one proposal. People also need to acknowledge that low-income Americans would suffer most from these proposals; higher energy costs cause inflation, raise utility bills, and make food more expensive, all of which hit the poorest Americans the hardest. To handicap our economy like this (and if you’re still buying into Jill Stein’s “it creates green jobs” argument, I encourage you to read up on the broken windows fallacy), we’d better have a damn good reason. And to be blunt, there’s reason to doubt that even drastically cutting down on carbon emissions would have any meaningful effect on global temperatures.

The second part to this argument is that, even in this situation, top-down control is not the best way to address an economic problem. The way you create new, superior technologies that benefit everyone is, and always has been, through investment. How do you invest when the economy is trapped in a self-induced death spiral?

The problem with progressive economics is, in this case and every other case really, is that it is what I like to call “snapshot economics.” It looks at one single moment in time, decides what the best solution to fix that problem tomorrow would be, implements that “solution,” and then pats itself on the back and walks away like a movie superhero walking away from an explosion. Free-market economics says that you should look at the big picture, and you should understand what the consequences of your actions will be. In this case, we should look at how the market has always responded to demand by providing us with superior technologies to fix the problems we face. The conservative solution to the climate change issue is really just conservative policy in general: pass meaningful tax reform that promotes growth, cut back on burdensome regulations, and promote specialization and innovation through removal of trade barriers.

Organizations centered on this approach do exist, such as the good people over at republicEn. It’s time to start demanding that conservatives abandon the intellectually lazy recourse of climate change denial, and instead start providing Americans with a meaningful alternative to the progressive vision of perpetual austerity for minimal results.