Bob Inglis op-ed: Climate action demands new thinking from the left and right (Chicago Tribune)
about 4 years ago
By Bob Inglis
When President John F. Kennedy went to Ireland in 1963, cousins in his tiny ancestral home were looking to America for protection in the Cold War. America was the only country big enough and strong enough to contain communism.
Around the globe today, cousins in dozens of other ancestral homes are looking to America to contain another menace that requires American strength, ingenuity, candor and resolve. The menace is climate change, and it can be solved only if America steps up.
That's what I heard in my own visit to Ireland last year. An ex-congressman of Scottish heritage can hardly expect the Irish welcome that Kennedy received, but the warmth of their reception was surprising. I expected recriminations. I thought I might be seen as the archetypal American laggard — a politician, a conservative, a partisan who was blocking action that the rest of the world wanted and needed from us. What I got was sincere encouragement for America to step forward. Lots of audiences later, I'm more sure than ever that we are going to meet the challenge.
Kennedy said in his inaugural address, "United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative adventures. Divided, there is little we can do — for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder."
Those words are as true today as they were in 1961. America dealt with division and challenges then; it can deal with division and challenges now.
What we need is a pivot — from the left and from the right.
The political left has used climate change as a wedge issue. It has successfully painted conservatives as troglodytes. They've won some elections, raised lots of money and built organizations, but how much closer have they come to solving climate change? We need the patriots on the left to turn away from those tactics — for the good of the country and for the good of the world.
We need a pivot from the right toward a conversation about solutions. Conservatives have recoiled in disputation of climate science because the proffered solutions are anathema. Cap-and-trade for carbon emissions won't work the way it worked for acid rain. The Clean Power Plan is a regulatory quagmire. Conservatives can't embrace those solutions, but they can step forward with other solutions that fit with bedrock principles of free enterprise.
Those solutions? Eliminate all subsidies for all fuels. Make all fuels fully accountable for all of the costs they bring upon society. Figure a way to make it in our trading partners' interests to join us on a level playing field where all products bear all of their climate costs. No more socializing soot. No more passing on climate costs to future generations.
When, in a magical moment for me, I accepted the Profile in Courage Award at the Kennedy Library in May, I spoke of Kennedy's determination and optimism in his 1962 moon-shot speech at Rice University. I sought to apply that determination and optimism to climate change. It's astounding that in his speech Kennedy admitted that some of the materials that would be needed for space flight hadn't been invented yet. But we were going to go to the moon, and we were going to do it before the decade was out — and we were going to be first.
Starting from behind in the space race, through the fog of false starts, the world saw us do it on July 20, 1969.
Today, the world looks expectantly to America on climate change. There will be plenty of credit to share when America comes together on this, when the left pivots from politics to collaboration and when the right pivots from denial to solutions. The world will see America leading again.
Bob Inglis, executive director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative and republicEn.org, served as a Republican member of the U.S. House from South Carolina.
Note: This op-ed first appeared in the Chicago Tribune on September 22, 2015.