Climate Change & Economic Growth

A difficult question today is what the world, led by the United States, is able to, should, must, and can afford to do about the impact of the earth heating up. In other words, to what extent should America sacrifice current economic growth to prevent climate change?


Change is hard. While nobody wants climate change (except perhaps winter-weary northerners), neither does anyone want an altered lifestyle or a negative financial adjustment. Reducing climate change is expensive; thus, it impacts America’s budget, taxation, spending priorities, and national debt. Adding to the difficulty, climate change is not as much about today or tomorrow, but about future tomorrows, so concerns about it get pushed aside by more urgent matters.


Average air temperatures are projected to rise 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit in a century, destabilizing weather patterns and leading to more drought, wildfires, storms, and floods. Almost no one in 2023 denies climate change, or that it presents a significant global challenge, although some do question all of the catastrophism.


The fight is about what, if anything, to do about it. John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, said last year at a major international conference that what is needed to fight climate change is “money, money, money, money, money, money, money.” That’s seven monies. We believe, however, that what really is essential are consensus and political will. When those are present, the necessary financial resources will follow.


The issue of climate change is one that balances the key governmental principles of limited government and protecting the vulnerable. This requires political leaders who follow principles of understanding, respect, and peace.


Domestically, there are many actions the United States can take to lead the way in reducing climate change across the world, without imposing strict limits or precise ways by which carbon emissions can be reduced. The concepts of tax credits, loan guarantees, and grants to incentivize cleaner energy production and use are a starting point. A national-cap-and-trade approach is another, and would unleash market powers to most efficiently reduce emissions. By enacting these programs, Congress can encourage individuals to buy low-carbon products like electric cars, and can incentivize businesses to invest in green technology. The Administration also can help by eliminating delays in permitting for new, better energy plants. Very importantly, our government can and should also fund any and all attempts to invent new ways to provide power, remediate past emissions, and discover other innovations. Inspired private American ingenuity, together with a free market, will provide much more effective climate-change solutions than the government could ever mandate.


These actions will come with a high cost now, but we believe the costs of not dealing with climate change will be much greater in the long run. There are plenty of areas in which the federal government could cut current spending to free up funds for important climate-change-related measures.


The United States, however, is no island by any definition of the word. The atmosphere, the wind, the seas, and their levels and temperatures are spread freely over the globe, flowing into and out of America. Accordingly, it does little good for our country to reduce carbon usage and emissions if other major industrial nations do not.


This is where America must rely on international diplomacy. International diplomacy, in turn, requires economic, military, and moral strength. This is what America and its federal government should lead.