Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Benji Backer: How to depolarize the climate change debate

For too long, the climate change debate in Washington, D.C, has circled around who denies what and when the world may end. On Twitter and other social media, the debate has turned eating a hamburger or vegetable into a partisan argument. Climate change has become a polarizing, partisan topic. It shouldn’t be.

 On one hand, Republicans have done a poor job explaining how our free-market clean energy solutions are climate solutions. On the other hand, the Democratic Party has seemingly aimed to out-radicalize itself every day with increasingly alarmist and unrealistic climate change proposals that stand no chance of becoming law.

The Green New Deal, or most ideas from Democratic presidential primary candidates, only turn away necessary voices and push aside potential feasible policies. While science doesn’t say we only have 12 years to save our climate, it’s undeniable that humans impact our naturally ever-changing environment.

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So what’s a realistic policy? It won’t come from one single piece of legislation, but from many free-market solutions that unleash American ingenuity and leadership. It’s these solutions that create jobs, clean up the environment for future generations, and build consensus around the common ground to care for the world around us. 

Take, for example, Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT). It’s a clean building product that proves innovation is how we can combat climate change, grow the economy, and raise our standard of living. It emits fewer emissions to manufacture than other tall building products and acts as a carbon-capture product. It’s estimated that the use of CLT and other mass timber for the construction of tall buildings could reduce emissions by up to 20 percent. It will also stimulate economic growth in America’s rural, timber-dependent communities.

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Congresswoman Rodgers has also prioritized hydropower as a source of clean energy for her district, promoted carbon-neutral biomass, and helped mitigate catastrophic forest fires that contribute to climate change. She has also led on streamlining relicensing processes to spur the development of clean energy resources and passed bipartisan legislation to encourage the use of small conduit hydropower projects to diversify our clean energy portfolio. Last Congress, she introduced a bill that focused on modernizing hydropower — which powers 70 percent of Washington state — and it passed in the House with strong bipartisan support.

On the grassroots side, the American Conservation Coalition has built a presence on 180 college campuses nationwide, helped form the Republican Party’s first bicameral environmentally-focused caucus, and brought countless conservative students to Capitol Hill advocating for important climate and energy reforms.

In September, we testified with Greta Thunberg before Congress on the importance of pragmatic climate change solutions. We’re changing the narrative that conservatives don’t care about the environment by building a strong base on these issues.

The climate is changing. Humans and global industrial activity are contributing. Thankfully, there are realistic free-market solutions that will lead us in the right direction.

For too long, this debate has centered on politicians pointing fingers to the other side. For Americans looking for solutions, it’s an old and boring story — and we agree. It’s time for something new and bold leadership on ideas that work.

Climate change should no longer be partisan — or generational.

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The climate is changing. Humans and global industrial activity are contributing. Thankfully, there are realistic free-market solutions that will lead us in the right direction. Solutions like CLT and hydropower are already here, and there are more innovations to come that will ensure America leads on clean energy, creating jobs, keeping energy prices affordable, and reducing carbon emissions. 

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Why not promote what raises our standard of living today and helps us leave our home better off than we found it? With solutions and results that benefit everyone, that’s a no-brainer. It’s also far more productive than the time wasted on partisan talking points, especially when technology and innovation are already making a difference.

This is a global problem, and it requires both parties leading on a global solution. America led the world in the development of coal, oil and gas, and now we can lead the world in clean energy technology.

Benjamin (Benji) Backer is the president and founder of the American Conservation Coalition, a member-based nonprofit focused on market-based, limited-government environmentalism. He is a senior at the University of Washington and a conservative activist, hiker and skier.