As impeachment talk ratchets up the partisan tension in Washington, there’s still hope that progress can be made on the most serious threat we face. It appears Republicans and Democrats are coming together, albeit slowly, on one issue that seemed intractable not long ago: climate change.
In the Senate, Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana is teaming up with Maryland Democrat Chris Coons to form a bipartisan climate solutions group.
The Senate group complements the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House that was established in 2016. It became a judgment-free zone where members of both parties could come together for serious discussions about solving climate change. Today, there are many bipartisan climate bills in the House, thanks in part to the collaborative atmosphere this caucus created.
A bipartisan approach to solving climate change is essential, because passing legislation requires buy-in from both sides of the aisle. Regardless of which party controls the Senate and White House, political winds shift, and only policies with broad support will withstand those shifts.
Republicans and Democrats are seeking common ground on climate change because public opinion has reached a tipping point that cannot be ignored. A CBS News poll last month found two-thirds of Americans view climate change as a crisis or serious problem, and a majority want immediate action.
Overwhelming majorities of younger GOP voters regard climate change as a serious threat too; 77 percent of them said so in a survey by Ipsos and Newsy this fall.
It’s not just polling that motivates Congress — it’s citizens. Volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby are carrying a clear message to their representatives: “Make climate a bridge issue, not a wedge issue.” CCL volunteers have held 1,131 meetings with congressional offices so far this year to bring the parties together on resisting climate change.
Now that we have Republicans and Democrats talking to each other about climate solutions, what major climate legislation will they support together?
A price on carbon offers promising common ground. Thousands of U.S. economists support carbon pricing as an effective tool to reduce emissions quickly. Newsweek recently surveyed 300 multinational corporations and found that 95 percent favor mandatory carbon pricing. And according to Luntz Global, carbon pricing that includes revenue return to Americans, has four to one support among all voters. The International Monetary Fund also supports carbon pricing.
This year, four carbon pricing bills have been introduced with bipartisan sponsorship.
Of the four, the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763) [energyinnovationact.org] has attracted the most support, with 66 House members, including three from Michigan, now signed on. This legislation would initiate a fee of $15 per metric ton of carbon, rising by $10 per ton each year. All revenue would be paid out equally to every household. In 10 years, a family of four would receive an annual “carbon dividend” of about $3,500. Resources for the Future estimates this policy would reduce carbon emissions 47 percent by 2030. The bill targets 90 percent reductions by 2050.
Despite the current hyper-partisan atmosphere, elected officials are realizing that climate change is one area where partisan differences must be set aside for the good of our nation and our planet. And with pressure from voters, our leaders will begin to lead us to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.