Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., used Independence Day to announce his independence (by way of resignation) from the Republican Party, decrying in his Washington Post op ed (excerpts of which were included in this paper on July 4) “the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us.”
Many of us, whatever our political affiliation, may share Amash’s frustrations over what appears too often to be a gridlocked Congress. I suggest that there is a different response than resignation from either party required, one that focuses on issues that reflect our interdependence, responds to calls for action from across the political spectrum, and commits us to bipartisan action.
We are faced with just such an issue now: the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rapid pace to ensure a livable world for future generations. This issue clearly reflects the interdependence of all humans. For instance, the carbon pollution created by decades of American industrialization has placed small island nations in peril of losing to rising sea levels the lands where their ancestors’ bones are buried. Closer to home, flooded fields (some recently visited by Rep. Fred Upton and described in this paper on July 3) have delayed crop planting in our region. The resulting diminished yields will impact not just farmers’ livelihood but also the food supply for all of us. The Union of Concerned Scientists attributes the water-soaked fields to the warning of the earth’s atmosphere. Impacts from the warming earth highlight important interconnections.
Calls for action on climate change cross political parties. LuntzGlobal, a polling organization well-regarded by conservatives, reported in May of this year that a majority of voters (80 percent of all voters and 75 percent of Republicans) want Congress to put politics aside and focus on a bipartisan solution to the climate crisis; further, 75 percent of voters, including a majority of Republicans (58 percent), want the government to limit carbon emissions; and “by 3-to-1, voters would support trading current regulations for a price on carbon.”
We have an opportunity to commit our country to bipartisan action on climate change. In January of this year, Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Francis Rooney, R-Fla., introduced H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which now has 52 cosponsors. Although currently all of the cosponsors of the bill aside from Rep. Rooney are Democrats, the bill was designed to attract bipartisan support. It puts a price of fossil fuels to reflect the damage they do to human and environmental health and returns the monies to families in direct deposits that will offset increased costs during a transition to new energy sources.
Regional Economic Models Inc (an independent company with a track record of providing policy analysis for government agencies and fossil fuel companies) analyzed the impact of such a bill and concluded that it would effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and premature deaths due to carbon pollution while at the same time increasing job growth due to an economic stimulus from the dividend. The bill’s appeal to conservatives is its reliance on market forces, rather than regulations, to promote the use of low- and no-carbon energy sources and to develop energy innovations, such as energy storage systems and carbon capture and sequestration.
Rep. Upton has publicly supported energy innovations as a solution to climate change. Let’s encourage him to lead a cohort of Republicans – perhaps those who, along with Upton, have recently formed the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus – to join with the Democrats who already sponsoring H.R. 763, including Reps. Andy Levin, Dan Kildee and Brenda Lawrence of Michigan.
We do not need to abandon our party affiliations to make democracy work. But we do need to address the issues that make us interdependent, ones that have support for action across the political spectrum. And we should do so by committing ourselves to bipartisan action that protects the environment and the economy simultaneously.
Mary Ann Renz of Kalamazoo is the Citizens’ Climate Liaison to the 6th Congressional District.