Time for the GOP to become green

May 20, 2009

Rob Sisson is president of Republicans for Environmental Protection. All opinions expressed are his own.

sisson1201(Politico) News flash: Republicans believe in protecting the environment. And we believe in playing it straight with the facts.

There are plenty of us green Republicans out here, including leaders like Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — President Barack Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to China — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, to name a few.

As Huntsman said last year, “If we’re going to survive as a party, we need to focus on the environment.”

But protecting the environment isn’t just political expediency; it’s core philosophy. We don’t think it’s a coincidence that “conservative” and “conservationist” sound so much alike. And we don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of our landmark environmental bills — the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 — were signed into law by Republican presidents.

It was President Ronald Reagan who negotiated the 1987 international treaty to safeguard the Earth’s protective ozone layer by phasing out the use of chlorofluorocarbons.

That’s why it is so frustrating when my fellow Republicans today play games around one of the most important environmental issues of our time.

Climate change is real, it’s caused by humans, and it will create serious risks for our nation’s security, economy and quality of life — and sooner than we think. That’s the unmistakable message from scientists who have devoted their professional lives to understanding how human activities affect climate. One of them is Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate research scientist at Texas Tech and a devout evangelical Christian.

She is co-author of a forthcoming report that will document the stunning effects climate change will have throughout the United States — such as the climate of my own state of Michigan becoming like what North Texas experiences today. I’m not kidding — look at the report, from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, when it comes out shortly.

This is serious business and deserves a serious debate. Some Republicans — Reps. Mary Bono Mack of California and Bob Inglis of South Carolina come to mind — are thoughtfully engaged, but many on our side of the aisle have chosen politics over prudence. That’s why I reluctantly have to call out those Republicans who continue to spread the false claim that capping greenhouse gas pollution will — supposedly — cost American families $3,100 every year.

The National Republican Congressional Committee started playing this game in March. It claimed this bloated cost figure was based on an MIT study.

But the author of the study — who surely ought to know — said the NRCC was way off base. Here’s what the author, professor John Reilly, said about the NRCC claim: “It’s just wrong. It’s wrong in so many ways it’s hard to begin.”

In letters to House GOP leader John Boehner, Reilly asked the NRCC to stop using this false number. He said that a correct estimate of the costs was far below NRCC’s number, which was based on a sloppy analysis that was riddled with errors a freshman economics major would have caught in a heartbeat. Reilly also pointed out that his study analyzed a generic cap-and-trade bill without any cost mitigation provisions.

The House is now looking at a very different bill to fight global warming pollution. What do we know about what that bill would cost?

A recent EPA study estimates the cost at $98 to $140 per year for each household. Even with the legislation, however, total household spending would still increase nearly 20 percent by 2020.

The economy will be bigger in 10 years than it is today, which climate legislation critics often fail to point out. We can afford to invest in energy efficiency upgrades, develop more renewable energy and take other important steps to stabilize the climate that we all depend upon.

So to my fellow Republicans, I say: Act like real conservatives. Be honest about the science and about the facts. Take responsibility for fixing a real problem. And let the world know that today’s Republicans want to be remembered the way we recall President Theodore Roosevelt — as people of honor who stood up to conserve the world we live in for our kids and grandkids.

(c) Capitol News Company, LLC 2009

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