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Conservatives Can Win the Next Generation by Playing Offense on the Environment

By Madison Cawthorn

When I was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention, I refused to let the opportunity pass without at least mentioning two issues that will determine the fate of not just the Republican Party, but our republic – health care and the environment. The policies we enact in these areas may determine whether our future is marked by growth, prosperity and opportunity or debt, division and despair.

Republicans often approach these topics with timidity and fear. But I see an opening, and a need to be bold. While it’s true that Democrats have an advantage over Republicans among younger votes, the largest voting bloc among millennials and Generation Z are independents. Instead of being reactionary, conservatives need to define what we’re for and win the argument.

When it comes to the environment, President Trump is right. Climate change is not a hoax. But the Green New Deal is a farce. It is a breathtakingly reckless, costly and irresponsible proposal. Even if it were enacted, it would do almost nothing to help our environment because it holds global polluters harmless.

The GND is also anti-science and anti-intellectual. It diminishes or dismisses proven technologies like nuclear energy and fracking. At the same time, it makes a mockery of the issue it is supposedly trying to elevate – climate change. If the planet is really in imminent peril, why delay or weigh down the enormously difficult work of developing and deploying cleaner energy technologies with utopian socialist crusades in the GND like single-payer, government-run health care and guaranteed income?

Sooner or later, younger Americans will realize they are being misled and manipulated by the AOC wing of the Democratic Party. Democrats aren’t trying to address climate change. They are trying to achieve political climate change. For many on the left, it isn’t about the planet. It’s about power. Republicans should respond to this anti-intellectual movement with real answers and real solutions.

If conservatives want to win the hearts and minds of the next generation, we should focus on four pillars:

Clean energy innovation. Conservative ideas are more likely to generate results because we understand that principled entrepreneurs operating in free markets produce innovations that change the world. Government programs and regulations don’t create visionaries. No agency created Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Only free enterprise systems can create the entrepreneurs and technologies we need to combat climate change.

Smart investments in research and development and clean energy infrastructure. While conservatives put entrepreneurs and markets first, we recognize that there is a constitutional role for government, especially when it comes to infrastructure. As C3 Solutions co-founder Drew Bond noted, R&D gave us fracking and has a multiplier effect of 4 to 1. Even though R&D pays for itself, Congress can also recycle government waste and eliminate wasteful spending through targeted cuts and a Balanced Budget Amendment

An “all of the above” and “technology neutral” approach. The GND puts ideology over science by favoring technologies the left considers politically convenient. Diminishing the role of nuclear energy and natural gas is irrational and irresponsible. The obstacle to progress is not the “fossil fuel lobby” the left denigrates but the “Medicare for All” lobby that favors socialism over stewardship. We should fund critical infrastructure and basic R&D but let markets and consumers pick winners and losers.

Removing obstacles and modernizing antiquated programs. Another way the GND is anti-intellectual: Even if it were enacted tomorrow nothing would happen without reforming the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). While well-intentioned, NEPA delays the deployment of clean energy projects for years. I’m looking forward to working with President Trump and congressional leaders on NEPA reform.

Congress also needs to modernize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is $36 billion in debt and not capable of responding to today’s flood risks. A recent report by the First Street Foundation found that FEMA is undercounting the number of properties that are at “substantial risk” of flooding by nearly 70 percent. We need private-sector solutions, not open-ended government bailouts.

I’m not running for Congress to merely have a seat at the table on these issues. I believe conservative ideas can run the table and win over an entire generation. I say to conservatives: You can love God, love guns and hate greenhouse gases. And I say to the left: I believe people on all sides care about the environment. The difference is, conservative ideas actually work.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

Copyright © 2020 Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions

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