A Conservative Answer to Climate Change

The Wall Street Journal
February 7, 2017
By George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III

The responsible and conservative response should be to take out an insurance policy. Doing so need not rely on heavy-handed, growth-inhibiting government regulations. Instead, a climate solution should be based on a sound economic analysis that embodies the conservative principles of free markets and limited government.


With these principles in mind, on Wednesday the Climate Leadership Council is unveiling “The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends.” The report was co-authored by conservative thinkers Martin Feldstein, Henry Paulson Jr. , Gregory Mankiw, Ted Halstead, Tom Stephenson and Rob Walton.

This carbon dividends program would help steer the U.S. toward a path of more durable economic growth by encouraging technological innovation and large-scale substitution of existing energy sources. It would also provide much-needed regulatory relief to U.S. industries. Companies, especially those in the energy sector, finally would have the predictability they now lack, removing one of the most serious impediments to capital investment.

Perhaps most important, the carbon-dividends plan speaks to the increasing frustration and economic insecurity experienced by many working-class Americans. The plan would elevate the fortunes of the nation’s less-advantaged while strengthening the economy. A Treasury Department report published last month predicts that carbon dividends would mean income gains for about 70% of Americans.

This plan will also be good for the long-term prospects of the Republican Party. About two-thirds of Americans worry a “great deal” or “fair amount” about climate change, according to a 2016 Gallup survey. Polls often show concern about climate change is higher among younger voters, and among Asians and Hispanics, the fastest-growing demographic groups. A carbon-dividends plan provides an opportunity to appeal to all three demographics.

Controlling the White House and Congress means that Republicans bear the responsibility of exercising wise leadership on the defining challenges of our era. Climate change is one of these issues. It is time for the Grand Old Party to once again lead the way.