Dealing With Climate Change, the Conservative Way

George Schultz and James Baker, both Republicans who served under Reagan, have proposed a conservative approach to dealing with climate change. They’re not entirely convinced how much a role mankind is playing in it, but they are convinced that it’s a significant enough threat that we need to do something.

Basically, Schultz and Baker propose a 4 step program:

1) Tax companies that are emitting carbon and contributing to the issue. The more carbon they emit, the higher the tax.

This will prompt companies to reduce their carbon emissions without specifying exactly how, so it will give them freedom to figure out the means.

2) Instead of bloating the government’s bank account or giving the government more spending power with the money raised from the tax, take that money and give it to the American people. They estimate that 70% of Americans would receive an income boost from this “dividend.” For a family of 4, that would be around $2,000 a year.

Okay, that’s not classically conservative, but it’s more conservative than pouring it into a government program. And it’s a step toward addressing our current ongoing redistribution of wealth from the middle class and working class to the wealthiest Americans.

3) Penalize other countries that aren’t limiting their carbon emissions. They propose a tax on imports from those countries.

On the surface, this puts them at a disadvantage of selling their goods here. In reality, it may only eliminate the unfair advantage they’ve gained by making their goods cheaper through cheating on the costs of reducing their pollution.

So it at least gets rid of their incentive to cheat, and maybe punishes them a little.

Schultz and Baker also propose giving breaks to companies selling their goods to such countries.

4) Since companies will find their own way to reduce carbon emissions (see #1) they won’t need to be as micromanaged in terms of regulation by the government. That means we can eliminate some of the climate-change-related regulations we’ve passed. We just won’t need them.

Since regulation often has the unintended effect of putting an administrative burden on business, that could be a good thing. And it could help return the flexibility to decide what creative course to follow to the businesses that would otherwise be under a bunch of government regulations.

Their full article was published in the Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, WSJ articles often hide behind their paywall. But I think I’ve summarized most of the relevant points here.