Bozmoski: On climate, a better way for Paul Ryan

USA Today
February 18, 2017
By Alex Bozmoski

A confident America acts decisively to ensure our next generation inherits a safe and healthy climate.

To the extent that America ever had a climate-change policy, it’s about to be dismantled in the same manner that it was promulgated: without Congress. Scott Pruitt’s EPA will effectively mothball President Barack Obama’s signature climate policy, the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan is weak, inefficient and legally shaky. But it’s a moral failure and political mistake for Republicans to snuff it out without a replacement. Republicans should replace the Clean Power Plan with a border-adjustable carbon tax that returns revenue to taxpayers.

First, it’s unambiguously immoral to ignore grave risks facing current and future generations. We will never escape uncertainty in long-term climate modeling, but there is precious little uncertainty that unabated greenhouse gas emissions have serious consequences. Without a replacement policy, Americans are forced to shoulder the costs of greenhouse gas pollution dumped for free into the atmosphere. Without a replacement policy, America’s de-facto climate policy is the socialization of pollution. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Congress has a moral duty to replace the Clean Power Plan with a better way, just as Congress has a moral duty to replace Obamacare.


A carbon tax is the solution best fitting with small-government conservative principles. Like regulations, a carbon tax would make it more expensive to pollute. Unlike regulations, a carbon tax is transparent, predictable and generates revenue. A well-designed carbon tax would level the playing field in the energy sector, boost private-sector innovation in clean energy and raise sufficient revenue to pay for meaningful tax reform (or a dividend check for every household).

What’s missing is Republican leadership, but that’s starting to change. U.S. Reps. Carlos Curblelo of Florida, Elise Stefanik of New York and 10 other courageous Republican members of the Climate Solutions Caucus have risen to start the conversation about new approaches to climate policy. Seminal leaders of the Reagan Coalition — such as former Secretaries of State George Schultz and James Baker III — are standing together to advance a revenue-neutral carbon tax. And according to a February poll by Yale and George Mason University, more than six in 10 Trump voters support regulating and/or taxing the pollution that causes global warming.

For such a deal to be possible, Republican climate leaders in Congress need Ryan’s support to build their coalition. They don’t need a policy endorsement so much as a commitment to the principle that Congressional Republicans will find a better way on climate, even if it froths up the fringes and takes some Democratic votes to do it. Because it’s the right thing to do.