Conservative Stewardship of the Environment
The conservative response to climate change should be advocacy for free market solutions and the championing of individual responsibility and stewardship, not denialism.
For many decades, environmentalism has been associated with the political left. The founder of Earth Day was Gaylord Nelson, who previously served as the Democrat Governer and later Senator from Wisconsin. Modern environmentalists such as Greta Thunberg are radically left-wing. Many are self-described socialists, and some are even open Marxists.
The culmination of this left-wing environmentalist is the Green New Deal. The resolution introduced in 2019 by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocassio-Cortez calls for eliminating carbon emissions in the United States within ten years of implementing the plan. This will be achieved by going 100% renewable energy, going 100% EVs, and upgrading our manufacturing and agriculture to use less carbon. Sounds good right? Well, not so much.
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The Green New Deal, as well as most of modern American environmentalism, hinges on three major fallacies when it comes to the environment: 1) that America is uniquely responsible for the majority of the world’s carbon emissions, 2) that there are no downsides to the proposals of modern environmentalists, and 3) that centralized efforts through government action offers the best solutions to environmental problems.
The first myth, that America is uniquely a significant polluter, is easy to debunk. According to the Rhodium Group, China produces more than twice the amount of CO2 every year than the United States. While the U.S. has produced more carbon throughout history, China is rapidly catching up and may surpass the United States in total CO2 emissions very soon.
The second myth is the claim that the solution to the CO2 problem is to go super green and that doing so will have no consequences. According to the American Bird Observatory, wind turbines kill over a million birds annually. According to the EU, hydropower kills more than one in five fish that pass through it. Electric Cars, while being more economically viable every year, are still morally concerning given that cobalt, a mineral used in EV batteries, has been linked to child labor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is not to mention all the trees that are cut down to install the “green infrastructure.”
The third myth is that the federal government provides the best way to solve environmental issues. This could not be further from the truth. To start, the Green New Deal would be extremely expensive. On the low end, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez estimates $10 trillion over the next ten years, while the center-right American Action Forum estimates the cost to be as much as $93 trillion. In 2009 Solyndra was given $535 million in loans from the Obama administration. Two years later, it was bankrupt. In the same city of Fremont, California, Tesla Motors purchased a factory and designed the Tesla Model S. Today, they are the most valuable car company in the world and are leading the green revolution. And while Tesla has certainly received government funding, and Elon Musk holds transhumanist beliefs worth criticizing, no one can deny their impact on the world.
So what should American conservatives do to respond to the biggest issue that millennials, and especially Generation Z, care about? The answer is naturalism, also known as green libertarianism. Naturalism emphasizes that we as humans are not fully separate from nature and that we must conserve it. It also is very anti-socialist and a firm defender of property. This belief leads naturalism to advocate for individual responsibility in environmentalism rather than government force.
This is why Elijah Mack and I started the Wild Caucus within the Libertarian Party so we can protect the environment and our rights. With an emphasis on personal responsibility, encouraging energy companies to invest in nuclear power by voting with our dollars, and understanding that fracking in places like the Permian basin, Alaska, and Green River formation in Utah are much better for the environment and geopolitics than relying on authoritarian governments in Venezuela, Russia, and the Middle East. These combined can help create a greener and freer society.
Lincoln Gaffney is a junior at Juan Diego High School in Draper, UT. He is a founding member of the Wild Caucus of the Libertarian Party and currently serves as its Vice-Chair and Southwest Overseer. @lincolngaffney
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