Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, says that action needed to address climate change is blocked by extremism on the political left and by denial on the right. But he believes both sides could be drawn together by asking a simple question.
“Do you want to see the Earth better than you found it? I believe you do,” he said in a webcast speech Monday to the conservative Sutherland Institute.
Curtis said if both sides would focus on how to do that, instead of worrying about the politics behind climate change, it would lead to steady improvements.
“Can we all agree that less pollution is better than more? Less carbon in the air is better? Less plastic in the ocean is better? Cleaner water is better? Cleaner air is better? Can we agree that we shouldn’t waste resources and we should be more efficient?” he asked. “I can’t imagine that there’s a ton who would disagree with me.”
But Curtis said he often finds himself between the left and right on climate change as a Republican who acknowledges that it is a problem — he says most Republicans won’t — but disagrees with what he says are radical proposals about it from the left.
As an example of that lonely place on the issue, the former Provo mayor said he was one of only two Republicans who attended an Aspen Institute conference for members of Congress on climate change. The other Republican left after the opening session. “I was literally the [GOP] elephant in the room.”
He said, “As a conservative, I regret that we have let ourselves be branded as not caring about the Earth. It’s time to stop being on the defensive and go on the offensive” by offering conservative solutions instead of merely criticizing proposals from Democrats.
Curtis said it’s time for the Republican Party to recognize how important the issue is, especially to young people.
“I believe strongly that if Republicans don’t make it an issue, we will lose the upcoming generation of Republicans,” he said. “The upcoming generation will not be patient with us. This is a deal-breaker for them. They’ll leave the Republican Party over this one issue.”
He called out both the right and left for actions he says are sabotaging addressing the issue.
Curtis said the left uses “science, shame and fear,” making conservatives dig in. “What does move me? A reverence for God’s creations. A feeling of accountability for my stewardship on this Earth. And a hope that my grandchildren and their posterity will be able to stand on Kings Peak and glimpse the greatness of nature.”
The congressman criticized the right for running away from the issue and calling it a hoax.
“Why does the climate question scare you? Are you really content with the label of not caring about the Earth?” he asked. “If I utter the word ‘climate,’ why does my wife get panic calls that [I] have gone off the deep end and I’m now in league with AOC [liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.]?”
He says it should be clear that the climate is warming, and pollution makes it worse. So, Curtis offered what he says are five approaches to the problem that he believes could gain bipartisan support.
The first is innovation. “We don’t need to destroy the U.S. economy to be successful. As a matter of fact, I believe a once-in-a-generation opportunity is in front of us” to address climate change with clean energy and technological innovation. He said part of that is to use more nuclear energy.
Another area to stress is conservation. “There is no more conservative principle than not wasting resources,” he said.
Next is preparation and adaptation. “The Earth flows in cycles. We’re in a warming cycle. We need to be preparing for rising seas and changing seasons. Maybe it’s time to stop rebuilding cities that are below sea level.”
He also said truly global efforts are needed. “We must have the cooperation of our global partners. Think about this: For every ton of carbon dioxide reduced by the United States, China has increased its emissions by over four tons.”
Finally, he said, it’s important to celebrate success along the way to build support. “America is the global leader in reducing carbon emissions, having cut more than the next dozen reducing countries combined between 2005 and 2017. That’s worth celebrating.”