What climate change action, Republican-style, might look like

The Christian Science Monitor
February 8, 2017
By Mark Trumbull

Climate-change activists keep knocking on President Trump’s door. Only this time, it’s not Al Gore or Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s former Reagan Treasury Secretary James Baker – backed up by a Mitt Romney tweet.

On Wednesday, Mr. Baker and a number of other big-name Republicans proposed a plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and publicly urged Mr. Trump to take action on an issue where “evidence … is growing too strong to ignore.”

Specifically, they pitched a tax on emissions, with the money refunded as “carbon dividends” to individual Americans to make it politically palatable.

Practically speaking, it’s not clear how Baker and his colleagues are going to have much more success in swaying either Trump or the Republican Congress than Mr. DiCaprio. Republicans in Washington aren’t feeling pressure from their constituents to take action.

But if climate change currently looks like an impossible issue for Republicans in Congress to tackle, these advocates say, at some point it may be an issue that’s impossible for the party’s leaders to avoid.


Not every backer of carbon pricing prefers this particular plan, but policy experts generally say carbon pricing is one of the most promising ways to steer fossil fuel use downward.

And they point to evidence that pressure is building on Republicans, from the widespread scientific consensus on climate change to businesses and cities increasingly viewing climate change as a reality that carries long-term risks.

Some polls show a majority of Americans supporting a carbon tax.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) of Rhode Island has suggested there will be a coming “jailbreak” among Republicans on climate change.

“Talking to my Senate Republican colleagues about climate change is like talking to prisoners about escaping,” Senator Whitehouse wrote in a January opinion column in The Washington Post. “The conversations are often private, even furtive. One told me, “Let’s keep talking, but you can’t let my staff know.’ ”