Commentary: Some conservatives are concerned with climate change

"Mounting evidence of climate change is growing too strong to ignore. While the extent to which climate change is due to man-made causes can be questioned, the risks associated with future warming are too big and should be hedged. For too long, many Republicans have looked the other way ... and fostered a needless climate divide between the GOP and the scientific, business, military, religious, civic and international mainstream."

These are not my words. They belong to eight notable conservatives, including former Secretaries of State and Treasury James Baker III and George Shultz, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Martin Feldstein, chairman of Roanld Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers.

These men have formed an international research and advocacy organization, the Climate Leadership Council, https://www.clcouncil.org/, to mobilize global opinion leaders around climate solutions, and they've proposed a carbon dividends plan to deal with climate change.

It deserves our attention.

Their carbon dividends plan is a gradually increasing tax on carbon at the point when the fossil fuel enters the economy. Economists, as it has been said, are nearly unanimous in their belief that a carbon tax is the most efficient and effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

Their plan is revenue neutral and doesn't grow government. It "returns all the proceeds collected to the American people on an equal basis via dividend checks or electronically using systems already in place. Over time, as the carbon tax rate increases, it creates a positive feedback loop: the more the climate is protected, the greater the individual dividend payments to all Americans."

A third key element of the plan is a border adjustment to protect American business and to insure other nations follow our lead. Only American leadership can inure a global answer to climate change.

After sketching out their plan, the Climate Leadership Council explains how its solution helps working and middle class Americans; strengthens the economy; incentivizes growth and innovation; could replace regulation and shrink the size of government; and would help stabilize an unstable world as we move away from foreign oil.

Their proposal is built around conservative principles, and yet is similar to carbon-tax legislation proposed by Congressional Democrats in the last two years. It is a bipartisan approach built on a conservative foundation offering a more effective, equitable and popular climate policy based on free markets, smaller government and dividends for all Americans.

In their concluding remarks, they remind Republicans of their "responsibility to exercise wise leadership on the defining challenges of our era, including global climate change. The GOP needs to lead the way rather than look the other way."

These notable Republicans and conservative business leaders have done something important. They need to be acknowledged and supported by all of us in Orange County. They've opened a discussion about a major long-term, long-ignored problem.

With our support, they can jump-start a conversation in Congress. Congress needs to hear from us. It is our job to let Congress know we want the issue addressed. Climate change has been an out-of-bounds topic for too long.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) needs to hear from us, and our friends in neighboring districts need to contact their representatives — Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) and Ken Calvert (R-Corona).

Climate change is not our fault, but it is our responsibility. Silence at this point is irresponsible. Climate scientist, evangelical Christian and one of Time Magazine 100 most influential people in 2015, Katharine Hayhoe, says talking about climate change is the most important thing we can do if we want the issue addressed.

The Climate Leadership Council is not the first group of Republicans to address climate change. A year ago this month, Democrats and Republicans came together and formed a bipartisan Climate Solution Caucus, half the members from each party.

The current membership is 26, six more than at the close of the last Congress. The newest members to join the caucus are San Diego-area Reps. Darrell Issa (R) and Juan Vargas (D).

Denial in Congress is way overstated in the media. All we need to do to put an end to the denial is to let Congress know we want action, that we want the Climate Leadership Council's suggestions explored. Our voices count.

Newport Beach resident MARK TABBERT is an O.C. Coast Chapter Leader with Citizens' Climate Lobby, a strategic partner of the Climate Leadership Council.

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