The opportunity to engage conservatives on climate

ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

ImpactAlpha Editor

Amy Cortese

ImpactAlpha, Jan 3 – Taxing carbon can drive emissions reductions. Technology is fundamental to the energy transition. We can, in fact, solve climate change. These aren’t beliefs held just by liberals. Indeed, the “GOP Outreach Campaign” led by Oxford University’s Bob Eccles suggests such beliefs may be more likely to be held by conservatives – at least among the minority who see climate change as an urgent threat.

“While conservatives focused on climate change regard it as serious of a problem as liberals do, they are more optimistic that we will be able to address it,” writes Eccles, a professor at Saïd Business School. “Liberals load heavy on doomsday. Conservatives load heavy on opportunity.”

Disagreements over the role of fossil fuels and near-complete Republican opposition to US climate policies such as the Inflation Reduction Act notwithstanding, Eccles argues for bipartisan engagement, particularly in an election year.

Eccles’s piece has struck a chord with liberals as well as conservatives, he tells ImpactAlpha, based on the number of people he has heard from since the Dec. 31 post. “Most of the Republicans are working behind the scenes,” he notes. The left, he says, “should eat a little humble pie and initiate engagement.”

Some surprising opportunities:

  • Conservatives and climate. The Conservative Climate Caucus in the US House of Representatives has 81 members including 11 from Texas and six from Florida. The mission of center-right think tank ClearPath mission is “to develop and advance policies that accelerate innovations to reduce and remove global energy emissions.” The R Street Institute’s Energy and Environment team, “seeks a cleaner environment through a combination of a thriving economy, well-founded science, and principles of market competition and limited government.” 
  • Tech vs. finance. Liberals generally see policy change along with finance as the keys to the energy transition. “Conservatives see technology as fundamentally essential to the energy transition,” says Eccles, including carbon capture, energy from nuclear, hydrogen, fusion and other moonshot technologies like cirrus cloud seeding and ocean iron fertilization.
  • Areas of agreement. Reducing methane emissions, a carbon tax, and good public policies are among issues in which there is substantial agreement, “albeit with different views on what ‘good’ is,” notes Eccles. The House “climate solutions caucus” contains 32 Republicans and 32 Democrats. US Congressional delegations to COP were “deliberately bipartisan” Alex Flint of the Alliance for Market Solutions told Eccles. Flint told ImpactAlpha last fall, “We are having a climate conversation that is inadequate given the consequences that we are certain to face.”