© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Dark clouds are seen over the horizon of Miami before Hurricane Irma hits southern Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
By Timothy Gardner
MIAMI (Reuters) – For Benji Backer, being conservative means believing in limited government, market-based solutions – and scientists say carbon emissions must be cut to avoid the worst worst of climate change.
Backer’s nonprofit, the American Alliance for Conservation, organized what it bills as the country’s first climate-conservative rally in Miami, part of 23 activist efforts age to convince far-right Americans that they don’t have to be liberals. support action on this issue.
It includes several Republican politicians from southern Florida, which are facing climate threats including tidal flooding from rising seas, stronger storms and health risks from heat and higher humidity.
“The environment doesn’t have a preferred political party,” Backer said from a podium overlooking a bay near where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a $6 billion sea wall. “Today conservatives are reclaiming our place on the environmental table.”
A skiing and hiking enthusiast, Backer started hosting the ACC as a freshman in college and became frustrated with then-President Donald Trump, who said climate change was a game. hoax created by the Chinese. The group said it hopes its membership, currently in the thousands, will expand to 10,000 by the end of the year.
The advocate’s mission reflects a nuance in US climate politics that is often lost in partisan debate: while Republicans are seen as opposed to climate action, many of its members believes in global warming but disagrees with libertarians on how to fix it.
However, that poses a big problem.
Environmentalists accuse Backer’s team of thwarting aggressive climate action they say is needed to save the planet by proposing half-market-based solutions.
While the ACC backs parts of Democratic President Joe Biden’s climate plan, such as those that focus on innovation, from advances in nuclear power to carbon capture and storage, but it also makes his proposals cumbersome and doesn’t “rationalize heavy regulations”.
The Biden administration hopes to decarbonize the US economy by 2050 and the energy sector by 2035, primarily by increasing the use of clean energy and electrifying vehicles and buildings.
The ACC only calls for moving towards a global “towards” zero carbon emissions by 2050, failing to meet or exceed the target. Instead of the mandates contained in Biden’s plan, it advocates for “market solutions” to cut greenhouse gases, such as building more carbon-storing wooden buildings, creating global forests. new bridge in the “trillion trees” program and increase the use of emissions-free hydroelectricity.
Emily Nielsen, a 29-year-old software engineer, who attended the rally that drew about 200 people, said: “I don’t like delegations because sometimes they have unintended consequences.
“Conservatives are more concerned about encouraging innovation or voluntary actions to tackle climate change,” she said.
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However, critics say measures backed by conservative groups like the ACC could delay progress on taking urgent steps needed to curb climate change.
“We have the technology to fight climate change today,” said Julie McNamara, an analyst in the climate and energy program at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists. need to start taking action now.”
Carla Staver, an ecologist and associate director of the Yale Institute for Atmospheric Research, added that new reforestation could be one component of a holistic approach to climate change, but the estimates Estimates of their climate impacts that some conservatives put forward may be “extravagantly optimistic.”
Another major sticking point for climate activists: The ACC is not in favor of imposing a carbon fee, a market mechanism that would encourage investors to switch to cleaner energy sources.
“The obsessive focus on innovation and policies that don’t impose costs on anyone are defined policies,” said Jerry Taylor, president of the Niskanen Center, a dovish think-tank. means unfit for the task.
Backer hopes there will soon be hundreds of climate-concerned Republicans in Congress, up from dozens today, pointing out that recent polls show younger members of the party are more open-minded about climate change control compared to older people.
US Representative Carlos Giménez of Florida, elected in 2020, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez were among the Republicans attending the rally.
For now, staunch Republican support for the drilling and mining industry remains staunch in the face of climate-conservative efforts. Several elderly people attending the rally held signs that read: “No climate crisis!”
Taylor said small steps could go as far as the party can go now because many Republican lawmakers represent states with large fossil fuel industries.
“It’s possible that this kind of little-balloon incrementalism is all that’s really possible,” he said.