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Republicans in Congress will save the world by tackling climate change – Houston Chronicle

Climate denial is no longer an option, though, and McCarthy recognizes global warming. Wielding the speaker’s gavel, he has the power to turn his party from the world’s foremost blocker of progress to an important voice for free-market solutions.

The future of the planet rests on his courage to lead conservatives in a new direction.

Orthodoxy is a stubborn thing. The most fervent members of any group resist change to fundamental beliefs, especially those going back decades. Only 11 percent of Republicans believe climate change should be a top priority, according to a January poll by Pew Research.

Meanwhile, 75 percent of Americans believe humans are changing the climate, and 42 percent think it is the most important issue facing the world today. Fifty-four percent of Americans under the age of 29 say global warming is the biggest threat to the nation.

McCarthy took the brave step as House minority leader to name energy and climate as one of his seven priorities. He tasked Republican colleagues to come up with a climate change strategy, including Texas Reps. Dan Crenshaw of Houston, Michael Burgess of Denton, and August Pfluger of Midland.

A decade ago, such a committee would hear fossil fuel lobbyists declaring global warming unproven. They’d insist the earth’s climate changes all the time and humanity can do nothing about it.

Today, every major oil and natural gas company publicly acknowledges human-induced climate change. The vast majority want a tax on carbon dioxide emissions and payments for capturing carbon because they recognize their future relies on stabilizing the planet’s temperature, which means reducing emissions.

The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative brings together 12 CEOs of the largest oil and gas companies. The group is committed to the Paris Climate Accords, which aim to hit net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“We know that each ton of (greenhouse gas) emitted into the atmosphere today will drive temperature change for as long as it is there,” the group said. “This requires us to think about emissions in a cumulative manner, so companies that can start reducing emissions today will provide greater benefits than those companies that only start reducing emissions post-2030.”

Oil and gas firms are excited to make money from capturing carbon dioxide and creating hydrogen as an alternative fuel. Both play into their strengths in geology, chemistry and engineering. Most climate scientists agree carbon capture and hydrogen are critical to slowing climate change.

In a capitalist system, though, economics are more important. Releasing gases into the atmosphere boosts profits for these companies. They need an incentive to reduce, and only governments can put a price on carbon dioxide, methane and other dangerous gases.

Luckily for humanity, a plethora of conservative climate action groups have emerged to lobby Republicans. They embrace climate science and advocate for free market solutions, with different groups emphasizing different approaches.

One I find fascinating is the Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions, also known as C3 Solutions, whose mission is to “develop, amplify, and elevate solutions that will protect our natural and economic environment.”

“Entrepreneurs, innovators, and market solutions can solve our global environment and energy challenges better than government,” the group proclaims. “Let’s find ways of supporting innovation with less regulation, not more.”

Count me in. I agree that private businesspeople searching for a profit in a competitive atmosphere will develop the best solutions to societal problems. Government officials typically work toward consensus, which leads to mediocre innovations.

For example, conservatives are also correct to demand an overhaul of government permitting, particularly for energy and mining projects. Environmental groups and property owners have weaponized regulatory processes so that even the most responsible proposals take years to gain approval.

Reading C3’s online magazine and newsletters, though, leaves the impression that government has no role in forcing companies to internalize all the costs of their activities. Human history shows us that for-profit corporations will almost always pollute if they can.

Let’s unleash the power of capitalism but always maintain government guardrails.

So far, 77 lawmakers have joined Congress’s Conservative Climate Caucus. Until now, Republican leaders have thwarted most of their attempts to pass climate legislation. McCarthy can change that.

Chris Tomlinson, named 2021 columnist of the year by the Texas Managing Editors, writes commentary about money, politics and life in Texas. Sign up for his “Tomlinson’s Take” newsletter at HoustonChronicle.com/TomlinsonNewsletter.

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chris.tomlinson@chron.com

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