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College Republicans push climate change

College Republicans push climate change

Indiana college Republican leaders have joined a first-of-its-kind effort from the youth wing of the GOP to push the party to change its stance on climate.

The recently formed lobbying campaign, called Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends, promotes a specific plan that would put in place a gradually rising, revenue-neutral fee on carbon emissions. The revenue from that fee would then be returned to Americans as a dividend.

At a time when the nation’s top Republican leaders, including President Donald Trump, have largely passed on taking action on climate change, many younger conservatives break from the party on the issue.

Recent polls show that the majority of Republicans believe the party is hurting itself with young voters with its position on climate.

“Obviously, climate change is something that’s been in political discourse in our country for a number of years now, and it’s something that as conservatives we’re not really prepared to talk about yet,” said Isaiah Mears, chairman of the Indiana Federation of College Republicans. “But it’s something that’s going to become even more relevant as we start voting in the future.”

Twenty-eight current and former chairmen and vice chairmen of state college Republican organizations across the country joined the campaign, which is the first time college Republicans have banded around a concrete climate plan.

A conservative alternative to the Green New Deal

The fire behind it, Mears said, stems from the concern that if conservatives don’t become involved in climate policy, they might end up with one they really don’t like – such as the Green New Deal, a Democrat proposed climate plan that was shot down by Republicans in the Senate this year.

“Because (climate change) is real,” Mears said, “we need to come up with a conservative way to handle it.”

The campaign grew out from a group called Students for Carbon Dividends, said George Gemelas, the group’s executive vice president. Both groups call for a specific climate policy called the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan.

Under the Baker-Shultz plan, oil, natural gas and coal producers would be charged a gradually rising, revenue-neutral carbon fee, the money from which would then be returned to American families as a dividend. The plan attempts to encourage carbon adjustments as a market-based alternative to other similar plans.

“Having college Republican leadership on climate is new for all of us,” Gemelas said. “And I think it shows there is a definite hunger for conservatives to put forward real and credible climate policy.”

The campaign’s founding comes shortly after a College Republican National Committee board meeting in November, where a resolution against carbon taxes was introduced but defeated.

Last year in the House of Representatives, a similar resolution was proposed and received almost opposite results.

The resolution was overwhelmingly approved by Republican representatives.

Republicans are hesitant when they hear the word “tax,” said Drake Abramson, vice chairman for the Indiana Federation of College Republicans and the other college Republican leader from Indiana to join the campaign.

However, he said, the Baker-Shultz plan has received support from economists and large businesses alike – including, Fortune has reported, ExxonMobil, Shell and General Motors.

“They hear that we’re putting a price on carbon, and that tends to get some mixed feelings,” Abramson said. “The fact of the matter is we can’t move forward with the way carbon emissions are increasing worldwide.”

Not all Republican leaders disavow climate change policy. Close to home, Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun has recently been in the spotlight for his role in founding a bipartisan climate caucus.

Braun applauded the college Republicans’ involvement in tackling climate policy but stopped short of endorsing the Baker-Shultz plan.

“As someone who founded the ecology club in high school, it brings great joy to hear that young conservatives are addressing the issue of climate,” Braun said.

“As we shift through various proposals, I am confident we can find commonsense solutions pertaining to our changing climate that also support and build upon President Trump’s strong economy.”

Citing Braun’s committee and the state’s young conservative involvement, Gemelas said he thinks Indiana is becoming a notable source of climate leadership in the GOP.

“I think that in the last year, if you look at the politics of climate they’ve changed immensely in both parties and there’s been a lot of attention in a way that it hasn’t been seen in recent years,” Gemelas said. “On the Republican side, I think that part is exciting.”

And it’s a good thing, too: Failing to address climate change within the conservative party might signal a crossroads: Either get on board, or risk losing votes.

Young republicans are worried about climate change, said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in October. He said it’s becoming increasingly important for Republicans to “do something different” than they’ve done, or potentially  lose support from a growing bloc of young voters.

Mears, a senior at Wabash College, said he already sees the trend happening at his school.

“There are so many people, my peers here at school … that are more inclined to vote on a single issue,” Mears said. “And I think that climate change is going to be one of those issues moving forward.”

Contact IndyStar reporter London Gibson at 317-444-6043 or lbgibson@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @londongibson

Connect with IndyStar’s environmental reporters: Join The Scrub on Facebook.

IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

The Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends is the first ever national climate-centered campaign by college republicans.
The Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends is the first ever national climate-centered campaign by college republicans. (Photo: Provided by George Gemelas)

Students learn about carbon dividends. The Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends plan has been proposed by a campaign of college republican leaders from across the U.S. as a market-based alternative to other carbon tax proposals.
Students learn about carbon dividends. The Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends plan has been proposed by a campaign of college republican leaders from across the U.S. as a market-based alternative to other carbon tax proposals. (Photo: Provided by George Gemelas)

Source:  USA Today

By: London Gibson, Indianapolis StarPublished 5:00 a.m. ET Dec. 27, 2019 | Updated 2:08 p.m. ET Dec. 30, 2019

LINK:  https://www.indystar.com/story/news/environment/2019/12/27/hoosier-college-republicans-push-climate-change-policy/2663005001/

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