(Some) Republicans Get Religion on Climate

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from Bloomberg Businessweek,

The party’s anti-regulation wing finds ways to call for change.

Jerry Taylor talks with passion about how climate change should be a conservative issue. While environmentalists on the left focus on controlling carbon emissions, Taylor argues the right should be looking at climate change the way it looks at financial risk. Leading climate experts estimate there’s a 10 percent chance of catastrophic warming because of climate change in this century. Speaking to an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in June, Taylor put the issue this way: If you knew there was a 10 percent chance that we’ll have another Great Depression, would you keep investing in equities? “Heck no,” Taylor said. “You would very well hedge.”

Last year, Taylor left the libertarian Cato Institute after 23 years to found the Niskanen Center, a nonprofit that works to develop what it characterizes as practical and politically feasible policies on issues such as civil liberties, defense, and immigration. He’s attracted prominent Republicans to his advisory board, including anti-tax campaigner Grover Norquist and George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state.

His timing may be good. Two-thirds of Americans say they think the world would benefit from reducing carbon emissions, according to a March poll by Yale and George Mason University. “The first collapse is the tendency on the right to say that climate change is not a problem,” says Eli Lehrer, president and co-founder of R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington that promotes policies encouraging free enterprise. “The equally strong collapse is the tendency on the left to say that only our way of solving it is workable.”

Yet Republican lawmakers remain cautious about embracing climate policy. “In these congressional districts on the House side, which are strongly red, there is a great fear of becoming the next Bob Inglis,” Taylor says. Inglis, a Republican congressman from South Carolina, lost his 2010 reelection bid in part because he told an interviewer that he believed climate change was caused by human activity—a position that put him at odds with many of the deeply conservative Republicans in his base.

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