They're Here to Fix Climate Change! They’re College Republicans.
"A lot of young conservatives are frustrated by the false choice between no climate action and a big government regulatory scheme."
Consider the life of a current college sophomore, a 20-year-old.
She was born in 1998, at the time the warmest year ever measured, when a monster El Niño pattern spawned floods and droughts around the world. Seven years later, as she started first grade, Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, and 2005 set a new record as the warmest year ever measured. That record fell again as she started fifth grade and sixth grade, and in her sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school.
In fact, 18 of the 20 years she has been alive have ranked among the warmest ever recorded. But through those two decades, the United States has not moved much closer to doing anything about the underlying problem: human-caused climate change. Maybe 20-year-olds can help.
On Wednesday, a coalition of 34 student groups from around the country—including 23 chapters of the College Republicans—announced the formation of Students for Carbon Dividends, a bipartisan group calling for national legislation to fight climate change.
Specifically, they’ve endorsed the Baker-Shultz plan, a proposal to impose an expensive new tax on carbon pollution while slashing Environmental Protection Agency regulations. That plan gets its name from the two GOP graybeards—James Baker III and George Shultz, both former secretaries of state—who first advanced it last February.
It marks the first time that a coalition of College Republican groups has publicly backed a climate-change policy.
“Adult leaders have not acted efficiently or effectively on this issue, and we are stepping forward to fill the void,” said Alexander Posner, the founding president of Students for Carbon Dividends and a 22-year-old American history major at Yale University.
“I think a lot of young conservatives are frustrated by the false choice between no climate action and a big government regulatory scheme. They feel pressured that those are the only two options, and they’re hungry for a conservative pathway forward on climate,” he told me. “The other thing that’s unique here is that the elder statesmen of the Republican Party are kind of uniting with the younger generation, to press the middle generation to act on climate.”
The Baker-Shultz plan has four major components. First, it creates a new $40 tax on every ton of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, which comes toabout an extra 36 cents per gallon of gasoline. It also creates a new “border carbon” tax, raising the prices of imported goods from countries that do not impose a carbon tax themselves.
Instead of pocketing the money from those two policies, the plan calls for the government to redistribute it as a monthly check to every American. A family of four would find itself with an extra $2,000 every year, they estimate. (Baker and Shultz claim that their plan should be called a carbon dividend, not a carbon tax, because of these rebates.)