Analyzing Climate Questions

over 3 years ago

After immense social media pressure and public calls from local elected officials, last Thursday, CNN debate moderators posed a question on climate change, an issue that has been noticeably absent from the last several GOP debates.

The networks shouldn't have waited so long to address this issue. The climate segment was reportedly the most tweeted subject of the debate even though the question was only posed to two candidates, neither considered the current frontrunner or the runner up to the frontrunner.

The question was directed first to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and then to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Twenty-one Florida mayors from both political parties had called for moderators to ask a specific set of questions around such issues as sea level rise, which is putting coastal communities at ground zero for the impacts of global warming.

In the Jeopardy! game show style, Rubio responded in the form of a question (well, technically, two questions).

"The fundamental question for a policymaker is: is the climate changing because of something we are doing and if so, is there a law you can pass to fix it?"

Let's dissect:

Is the climate changing because of something we are doing?

The simple answer is yes. Rubio is correct to assert the climate has always been changing, and rapid increases in CO2 have historically caused the most destruction (think: mass extinctions). Record breaking levels of CO2 due to human activity and increasing average global temperatures cause modern-day climate scientists a high degree of concern.

If so, is there a law you can pass to fix it?

You can't write into law a prescribed decrease in temperature or sea level rise, but the United States can pass a law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will contribute to lowering the carbon in the atmosphere. If the U.S. joins other major polluters in the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, together we can make a difference globally in slowing down the current frenetic pace of warming.

As Rubio points out, "these laws some people are asking us to pass will do nothing for the environment and they will hurt and devastate our economy." He's wise to look at the fine print. The key is to "fixing" climate change is finding the policy solutions that will result in the most emissions reductions and spur the economy at the same time.

In his response to the same debate question, Kasich proclaimed that he thinks human activity impacts the climate, with the caveat that "we don't know how much humans actually contribute."

Kasich and Rubio both support tapping into all forms of energy and providing the U.S. with a diverse energy portfolio.

The next president is going to have to deal with the impacts of a changing climate. But there is hope for U.S. policymakers to embrace a free enterprise solution to climate change.

In Kasich's words…

"You can have a strong environmental policy at the same time that you have strong economic growth. They are not inconsistent with one another."

Mash up Kasich's optimism with Rubio's most inspiring quote of the night: "there is no problem before us we can't solve" and draw the conclusion: free enterprise can solve climate change.