This story originally aired August 11, 2017
Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress say they’re not so sure about the science of climate change, even though the vast majority of scientists agree: we’re warming the planet and if we don’t stop, it’ll have big consequences for us.
A recent Pew study found that these lawmakers reflect the attitude of many of the constituents they represent. Only 11 percent of conservative Republicans say climate scientists understand the causes of climate change very well.
So, can anything change their minds? One conservative says ‘yes’.
Bob Inglis is a former South Carolina Republican congressman who now heads a group called republicEN.org which aims to promote ‘free market’ solutions to climate change.
Inglis said when he first started serving in Congress in the 1990s, he didn’t believe in climate change. But then in 2004, something changed his mind.
“My son came to me; he was voting for the first time. And he said to me, ‘I’ll vote for you but you’re going to clean up your act on the environment.’ What he was really saying was, ‘Dad, I love you and you can be better than you were before.'”
Inglis says Republicans hesitancy to embrace climate change isn’t just playing politics. It’s what he calls “solution aversion.”
“As conservatives we haven’t seen a solution that we like yet,” he says. “We think that the solution is going to be a larger government that taxes this, that regulates this, that takes away liberty, that grows a nanny state. And so we reject the existence of the problem.”
So what is the conservative solution to climate change? Inglis argues that the simplest solution is a carbon tax.
“You go to the 2000 companies that either mine coal or put stuff in a pipeline — that can be natural gas or it could be petroleum — and you say, ‘Your product has just been taxed.’ Let’s say it’s $25 per ton price on carbon dioxide. We know how much CO2 is going to come out of the burning of those products; that’s scientifically known.”
At the end of that pipeline, Inglis says the carbon tax means the price of gasoline goes up by 25 cents a gallon and the price of electricity goes up one to two cents per kilowatt hour, depending on where you live.
“So in other words it’s not a catastrophic change or lives,” he says.
Under this plan, the money raised from the tax would be recycled back to the taxpayer either by cutting taxes somewhere else or paying dividends.
“So there’s no growth of government. This is essential for us because we are conservatives.”
Want more? Listen to our podcast, Trump on Earth, to hear the full conversation with Bob Inglis and dozens of other great interviews as we try to understand changes in environmental policy under the Trump administration. Fresh episodes of the podcast return soon, so now is your chance to catch up!
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