An open letter to the debate moderator: ask the right climate question

over 3 years ago

Dear Mr. Moderator:

As you prepare your debate questions for Monday night, climate realists and energy optimists on the ecoright implore you to consider a question on climate change. How does the issue fit into a debate focused on America's direction, prosperity and security? We've got a suggestion that fits perfectly, but you need to frame it right. Please don't ask the uninformative 'is climate change happening?' and its many cousins, which just open the floor for more 140-character sound bites, which this election season needs less of. If you turn to the issue, ask the question: can free enterprise solve climate change?

On the campaign trail, America has heard one candidate debunk climate change while the other defaults to support for status quo solutions. Neither approach is satisfactory. By asking if free enterprise can solve climate change in lieu of defaulting to the same, tired questions that get the same canned responses, you touch on the direction, prosperity, and security of our nation in one fell swoop.

With three reports out last week authored by military and national security experts across the last five Administrations highlighting the risk climate change poses to our defense installations, global security and our own border, any solution is going to help mitigate risk. But a free enterprise solution to climate change eliminates subsidies for all fuels. A free enterprise solution to climate change makes fossil fuels fully accountable for the costs they bring upon society. A free enterprise solution to climate change includes a way to compel our trading partners to join us on a level playing field where all products bear their climate costs. No more socializing soot. No more passing on climate costs to future generations. And the bonus, free enterprise is the small government way to deal with climate change. Direction. Prosperity. Security.

In follow up, ask the candidates if they support the biggest energy subsidy currently doled out by the U.S. government: the ability to freely dump carbon into the sky without accountability. Alternatively, ask if they support a revenue-neutral border adjustable carbon tax that compels our trading partners to enact their own emissions reduction systems and holds accountable those who release carbon into the atmosphere. A carbon tax has the potential to unleash the power of creativity and innovation. If allowed to work, the power of capitalism can fix the economics (prosperity), beat the problem (direction) and maybe even save the world and the humans who inhabit it (security).

As debate moderator, you set and control the tone and quality of the discourse; certainly the task is not going to be easy, but the debate won't be complete if you don't ask the climate question. Don't stop the clock until you get the substantive answer.


Chelsea Henderson and the ecoright community