Climate change is a conservative issue


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When it comes to climate change solutions, the ball is in the Republicans’ court.

So opines Barry Daigle, a longtime Republican voter who is waving the flag for a national carbon fee and dividend aimed at slowing the impacts of global warming.

I checked in with the fifth-generation Oregonian one week after 195 nations agreed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

“The whole definition of being a conservative is hedging your bets, avoiding risk and conserving what you have, “says Daigle, a Portland middle school teacher and former owner of a construction business.

Daigle is also a member of the Portland Chapter of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a national organization seeking support for a national carbon fee and dividend.

A carbon fee/dividend package would levy a rising fee on fossil fuels based on their carbon content, then rebate 100% of the revenues directly back to residents.

Before becoming a teacher and starting a business, Daigle was in the Marines for eight years. “Nationally, you hear people are concerned most about terrorism and the economy,” he says.  “But if you talk to people in the military, they tell you environment plays a big role in security.”

Like the drought that preceded the Syrian civil war.

“The environment as I see it is the biggest issue,” Daigle says. 

Daigle and his group are currently seeking “endorsers” for a national carbon fee.  Getting business people on board is part of that effort. So is lobbying Republican congressional leaders, who generally oppose climate change mitigation policies.

It’s a misguided attitude, Daigle says. Climate change is often framed as a liberal issue. But it’s a nonpartisan threat that calls for a conservative, market-oriented solution.

A recent paper by Norwegian researcher Sondre Båtstrand bears out that position.The paper studies the climate-change positions of electoral agenda for the conservative parties in nine democracies — including oil-rich Canada and coal rich Australia — and finds the GOP is the only conservative party to deny the legitimacy of climate change science.

Opposition to any reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, Båtstrand writes, “is only the case with the U.S. Republican Party, and hence not representative of conservative parties as a party family.”

To date, the Republican presidential candidates have said almost nothing about the Paris Agreement.

In 2013, the Oregon legislature commissioned a study from Portland State University to examine what a carbon tax might look like here. Backers are calling for a price on carbon to help met the state’s goals of reducing emissions least 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 75 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.


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