Decades of climate research have provided strong evidence that the Earth is undergoing a warming trend very different from the slow, natural warming trends our planet has typically experienced when coming out of Ice Ages or entering periods of heightened solar activity. Furthermore, this global warming trend has been strongly linked to increases in human activities, such as certain types of industry, transportation, and agriculture.
Indicators such as rising humidity, surface and air temperatures over sea and land, diminishing glaciers, sea ice, and snow cover, provide conclusive evidence for global warming. Humans emit 30 billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere every year, and the type of carbon accumulating in the atmosphere is a type specifically associated with the burning of fossil fuels. Satellites have measured the amount of heat being increasingly trapped in the atmosphere due to increased CO2 levels. Warming patterns are extremely consistent with anthropogenic global warming.
As the body of evidence for man-made global warming has become more comprehensive and integrated, the percentage of the scientific community that accepts it has increased sharply. A Gallup poll in the early 1990s found that 67% of climate scientists accepted it, whereas a poll of American climate scientists conducted by George Mason University in 2011 found that 97% of experts accept global warming and 84% believe it is conclusively human caused.
According to a recent Gallup poll of the American public, only 7% do not accept that the Earth is warming, and a majority of Americans (53%) accept that the warming is human-caused. Global warming is an accepted fact, and the question is what to do about it. Unfortunately, leftists are winning the debate over how to respond to global warming. That same Gallup poll found that large majorities of Americans, ranging from 62-70%, favor more government regulations, taxes, control, and bureaucracy.
Not only is the Republican Party’s embrace of climate science denial hurting the GOP electorally amongst intelligent independents, but conservatives are also conceding a huge point that does not need to be conceded. Conservatives’ concession of how we respond to the problem of global warming is allowing Democrats to run amok with enlarging the government and shackling American industry.
Republicans must accept and acknowledge man-made global warming (and challenge those who deny it) and put forward their own positive solutions. These solutions must empower the people and the private sector, rather than government. These solutions must rely on the millions of brilliant innovators and entrepreneurs at our disposal, rather than a small gaggle of election-minded politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, DC. We must use this opportunity to enlarge freedom and prosperity, not destroy it.
Man-made global warming essentially boils down to an issue of private property rights. Some individuals’ property is being damaged, by scorching or flooding or other means, due to the actions and emissions of others. The issue is no different from a factory that dumps toxic chemicals into a stream, which carries those chemicals several miles down to a farmer’s field and destroys the farmer’s crops. Just as the farmer should be able to take legal recourse to protect his crops from the factory’s chemical dumping, those who find their homes destroyed by rising sea levels or their crops scorched by rising temperatures should be able to take legal recourse to protect their lives and livelihoods from the carbon emissions of others. This is an issue that should goad us to strengthen the institution of private property, not goad us to grant the government more power to seize and redistribute our property.
Conservatives ought to put forward legislation to decrease the burden of government upon the innovators and entrepreneurs who are seeking to make cleaner and more efficient technology, and who are looking at ways to combat global warming. Taxes, red tape, and regulations should be slashed–deeply and quickly–for research and development departments and companies that are doing things to help the environment. The government should not be sending subsidies to “green” companies. The government should simply lessen its burden on these innovators and let the free market decide how to allocate these resources.
Simply accepting the legitimate science on man-made global warming is Step One, which will help the Republican Party regain credibility. Step Two will be to use that newfound credibility to propose sensible, conservative solutions to climate change. For rational grassroots conservatives, that means we need to speak out against silly climate science deniers in our ranks, educate them on the facts, and press for a freedom-oriented response to the problem rather than a government-oriented one.