Fox News Republican debate moderators asked a climate question!

In the 2016 Republican presidential candidate debates, climate change has rarely been discussed. In last Thursday’s debate, the last before tonight’s Iowa caucus votes, on Fox News of all networks, there was one brief climate question directed at Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Unfortunately it was framed as a ‘gotcha, flip-flop’ question, with Rubio asked about his apparent support 8 years ago for a carbon cap and trade system in Florida, versus his current opposition to the concept.Rubio responded:

I have never supported cap and trade and I never thought it was a good idea. And I was clear about that at the time.

And I do not believe it’s a good idea now. I do not believe that we have to destroy our economy in order to protect our environment. And especially what these programs are asking us to pass that will do nothing to help the environment, but will be devastating for our economy.

When I am president of the United States of America, there will never be any cap-and-trade in the United States.

In another debate 4 months ago on CNN, Rubio made similar comments, adding:

America’s a lot of things, the greatest country in the world, but America is not a planet. And we are not even the largest carbon producer anymore, China is, and they are drilling a hole anywhere in the world that they can get ahold of.

Fact checking Marco Rubio

Politifact ruled it “mostly true” that Rubio never supported cap and trade. However, the rest of his comments are mostly false.

First, “blame China” is no longer a viable option. Despite having much lower cumulative historical carbon emissions than the USA, China has agreed to take serious action to curb its coal consumption and carbon pollution, and has announced that it will launch the world’s largest carbon cap and trade system. Using China to oppose an American carbon cap and trade system simply doesn’t make sense.

Second, the “our pollution is too small to matter” argument is known as the Tragedy of the Commons fallacy. If the USA can make that argument, then so can every country. If every country uses this excuse, then none cut their carbon pollution, and climate destabilization becomes inevitable. The good news is that the opposite is already happening. Virtually every country in the world agreed to cut carbon pollution as a result of the Paris climate negotiations, including the United States and China.

Third, there are already cap and trade systems in place in the United States. The George H.W. Bush administration invented the concept of cap and trade to tackle the problem of acid rain with an economically optimal, free market approach. Under that cap and trade system, emissions of the pollutants that were causing acid rain were cut more quickly and cheaply than expected, and the estimated economic benefits have outweighed the costs of the system 40-to-1.

California and a collaboration of nine northeastern states also already have successful carbon cap and trade systems in place. In order to comply with proposed EPA carbon regulations, many more states are likely to implement carbon cap and trade systems, or join these existing networks.

Fourth, as these successful existing cap and trade systems demonstrate, the concept hasn’t been devastating for the economy. Quite the opposite – theeconomies of the nine northeastern states, which implemented their regional cap and trade system in 2008, and of California, where it was introduced in 2013, have fared better than the national average. There is also a consensus among economic experts that we should cut carbon pollution, with most favoring a cap and trade system or carbon tax.

In fact, in a March 2007 speech, Rubio wisely argued that Florida should take advantage of the economic opportunities created by this type of free market solution.

This nation, and ultimately the world, is headed towards emission caps and energy diversification. Those changes will require technological advances that make those measures cost effective. The demand toward such advances will create an industry to meet it—Florida should become the Silicon Valley of that industry.

Unfortunately there was no more debate about optimal climate policies last Thursday. Rubio rejected the possibility of a carbon cap and trade system, and the moderators moved on to another topic. However, the other Republican presidential candidates would likely have answered in a similar fashion. Governor Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of the northeastern states carbon cap and trade system, Ted Cruz denies that the Earth is even warmingmany of the candidates are science deniers, and the only Republican candidates who think we should take action to curb global warming (Lindsey Graham and George Pataki) have dropped out of the race.

Ideology vs. Reality

Climate change has sadly turned into an ideological litmus test. Republican candidates fear that if they admit human-caused global warming is a problem that we need to solve, they won’t be able to win their party’s nomination. As Graham and Pataki’s candidacies showed, that may be true.

However, a growing number of Republican thought leaders and even a majority of Republican voters support a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

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Posted by dana1981 on Monday, 1 February, 2016

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