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A Turning Point in the Climate Debate

In a piece in The Dispatch, I make the case that conservatives shouldn’t be content with banning Russian oil imports and increasing domestic production. Both policies are no-brainers, but we should have a much more aggressive strategy.

“[C]onservatives have an opportunity to offer something more ambitious and transformative than ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ 2.0. We can reshape the climate debate and redefine what it means to be serious about environmental stewardship for decades to come.”

Biden, I predict, will relent on both fronts. He’s facing pressure from not just Republicans but key factions in his own party ranging from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). Yet, a Biden “loss” and conservative “win” isn’t good enough. The moment demands so much more.   

To do that we need to pick up the phone. The 1980s are calling again.

It’s wise to be skeptical of nostalgia. As the great lyricist Bono of U2 wrote in the 1980’s, we glorify the past when the future dries up. Yet, the truth is we are parched in 2022. Our politics is a barren desert. There are times when the answer is to go back to wells connected to deep reservoirs that nourished not just Reagan’s approach to climate change but also Abraham Lincoln, MLK, our founders, and freedom fighters in other countries like William Wilberforce.  

For conservatives, the 1980s were a time before Al Gore, a time before environmental issues became hyper-politicized and just plain weird. In the 1980s both Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher weren’t afraid of being accused of being socialists when they voiced concern about human-influenced changes to our environment.

They weren’t afraid because at their core they were not offering moderation or big government lite solutions but an unrelenting commitment to economic freedom and human rights. As I describe, Reagan’s approach to climate change was rooted in his National Security Council identifying environmental issues as a tool to mobilize dissidents because it was obvious that the West’s capacity to innovate was vastly superior to the “sorry record of the Soviet Union.”

In 2022, the 1980s worldview and strategy are an ideal roadmap. Using that roadmap, Nick Loris, our VP of Public Policy, offers specifics on where policymakers can go from here as we face higher energy and gas prices.   

History has a way of starting over and repeating itself, especially when experts predict its ending. Every few years or decades produces watershed moments. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be the third of my lifetime after the fall of communism and 9/11. The future is being written as we speak and reapplying first principles is a good place to start if we want the ending of this new chapter to advance the noble goals of freedom, justice and peace over suffering, tragedy and loss.

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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