When Donald Trump moved in to the White House, it seemed logical that his administration would pull the plug on efforts to counter climate change.
What else would anyone expect from a presidential candidate who once called global warming a Chinese hoax?
Yet, earlier this month a cadre of Republican leaders from yesteryear succeeded in winning an audience in the White House with Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, to talk about “carbon dividends.”
The group included James Baker, a former secretary of state and a former White House chief of staff; George Shultz, who held various cabinet positions; Martin Feldstein, a conservative economist who headed President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic advisers; and others.
The group, organized as the Climate Leadership Council, wants to put a price on carbon, which would be included in the price of fossil fuels like gasoline, coal or natural gas.
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But instead of the receipts going to the government, they would be funneled through the Social Security Administration and given back to the taxpayers as dividends. Proponents say that for most taxpayers the dividends would more than cover the increased cost of fossil fuels. The organization projects that the typical family of four would receive about $2,000 a year.
The plan is similar to a concept promoted in Nebraska by the local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.
In reality few expect the plan to win acceptance in the Trump administration, which is filled with climate change deniers and frequently exhibits an anti-science bias. There was immediate pushback. Michael A. Needham of Heritage Action for America said flatly, “There is no room in the Republican Party for a carbon tax.”
But credit the elder Republicans, throwbacks to an era where rationality and facts were respected, for outlining “The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends.”
Because like it or not, the planet is growing warmer. Last year was the hottest on record, breaking the record set only a year before. Greenhouse gases are at a higher level than any time in the last 4 million years. Every location that monitors carbon dioxide reports levels exceeding 400 parts per million. At the start of the industrial revolution the level was about 280 parts per million.
So it’s encouraging that there are still those on the right side of the political spectrum who are trying to come up with ways to cope with the challenges facing our warming planet. Other Republicans should heed their counsel.