Too often, climate change policy is oversimplified to false choices: renewables versus fossils, economy versus environment, 100% reductions versus inaction. The reality is this: solutions must make a clean energy transition cheaper and faster while preserving economic growth and reflecting the global nature of the challenge. Solutions exist, but before we get to them, it’s important to become grounded with an understanding of where we are today.
“The climate is always changing!” That’s a point you often hear, and it’s true, temperatures have gone up and down a lot in the last 2 million, or so, years. When you look at the really long-term trends, we are currently at the end of one of the goldilocks periods — not too hot, not too cold — during which all human civilization happened. Based on the long-term trends, Earth should actually be getting a lot colder now, not warmer.
So to oversimplify, staying in a goldilocks spot where we know humans flourish is a good thing. But, these false choices lead to inaction and put that at risk.
Today, the changing climate is largely caused by larger amounts of greenhouse gases being emitted into the air. Another way to think about this; like a bathtub being filled with water, greenhouse gases are building up in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, is not toxic like a normal pollutant – we all breathe it in and out all the time. It’s also plant food, so plants help “drain” carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But, like a bathtub, if it fills faster than plants can manage, a little overflow is not ideal, and significant overflow will cause all kinds of problems.
The buildup, or overflow, of carbon dioxide could have lasting measurable impacts on weather patterns around the world. The buildup, or overflow, of carbon dioxide could have lasting measurable impacts on weather patterns around the world. Since 1980, the United States has spent $1.75 trillion in Disaster Recovery from 258 “billion-dollar events.” From 2014 to 2018 — the United States has seen an average of 13 billion-dollar disasters every year. This is all deficit spending– and it’s been going up like crazy. If we don’t better prepare, we increase deficit spending. According to FEMA, every $1 spent on pre-disaster mitigation saves on average $4.
Although increased carbon dioxide emissions are a reason, deliberating the science and long- term climate models can be weaponized and often leads to a dead-end political debate instead of solutions. As conservatives, ClearPath studies how to accelerate market-driven clean energy and climate solutions. We are constantly tracking how the private sector thinks about climate change in a free market economy. The trend has become abundantly clear — America’s largest utilities like Duke and Southern, energy producers like Exxon and Oxy, agriculture companies like Monsanto and Cargill, and financial institutions and other leaders are making long-term business decisions responding to climate change and investing in solutions.
To understand ClearPath’s mission — accelerating clean energy innovation — it is important to know where this excess carbon dioxide comes from, and how a free market can respond and thrive. Making electricity and heat is currently the largest source of emissions in the world. This is why ClearPath works in the power sector. ClearPath believes clean energy technologies developed in America can benefit and transform the rest of the world, like we’ve done in the past with natural gas, nuclear and solar power. Finding ways to make energy both more clean and affordable to solve climate change is a concept supported by thought leaders from Bill Gates to House Republican leadership.
In any debate, or simple dinner table discussion, don’t fall into the false choices trap — renewables or fossil fuels, economy or environment, 100% reductions or no action — that can cloud potential policy solutions.
False Choices on Climate
To act clear-eyed on climate change: avoid the political misconceptions, understand the basic facts, and consider solutions that reduce carbon dioxide emissions using conservative policies rooted in American innovation.