Conservatives and the climate change inflection point

The nation is at an inflection point in addressing climate change. It needs to decide whether it will continue down a fraudulent path of green talk without results or pivot toward commercial solutions that meet today’s energy needs, the increased power requirements of future megacities while also decarbonizing the planet.

The left has owned this conversation for several decades and has little to show for it besides bloated, squandered government subsidies and unfulfilled promises. Their ideas don’t work and will never work.  It’s time for conservatives to take the lead and pivot toward a sustainable and successful trajectory of progress in climate change – not just for America but for the world.

Let’s start with the premise that the left’s version of a “Green New Deal” is far too small. They are looking at the wrong problems, therefore generating the wrong solutions.  By viewing climate change strictly as the global temperature rise and clean energy, the left is missing the much broader challenges of worldwide energy poverty, population growth, urbanization, water scarcity and food insecurity. 

The U.S. and its allies must take a pre-eminent leadership role in clean energy development while not allowing it to become a taxpayer-funded, government-run set of clean energy initiatives intent on U.S. divestment from all fossil fuels.  The clean energy challenges of a world that needs more energy, not less, cannot be met exclusively by the U.S.-focused “Green New Deal” approach. Rather, we must strengthen partnerships with our allies and leverage existing coalitions to implement a shared and synchronous strategy. 

Abundant, baseload and clean are all equally important elements of energy, but if you are one of the almost one billion people with no electricity at all, or a nation starving to attract industry and manufacturing but lacking the needed power infrastructure, do you care about whether or not it is carbon-free? This is the preeminent challenge of our time, yet we consistently ignore the most impactful solution – nuclear power. It not only has the capacity to power the planet with clean energy but can decarbonize it as well.

Thankfully, conservative leaders in Congress, along with the Defense Department, the intelligence-sharing Five Eyes and NATO allies have started to recognize this as the most important national security challenge of the 21st century, not solely an environmental challenge. Nuclear power must always be treated and deliberated first and foremost as a national security issue, not as if it were just an interchangeable commodity in the energy market. How does this differentiation in recognition change the prescription for resolving this challenge?

The Paris Accord on climate change identified carbon reduction as the primary global objective of our era. However, it didn’t acknowledge the greater global challenge – providing abundant, baseload power for the globe. As President, Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris Accord in favor of a more robust approach was not climate denial. In fact, many decisions he made from the White House actually represented a more robust and comprehensive environmental strategy, which linked foreign policy, national security and clean energy —something the Paris Accord didn’t address or even consider. 

Under President Trump, America’s nuclear energy sector made long-overdue strides by offering a viable alternative to the “Green New Deal” in the form of a “Real Green Deal.” It empowered our nuclear industry to work toward truly decarbonizing the world and electrifying the planet via a comprehensive plan built on new modular commercial nuclear reactor designs, free-market principles and global demand. It also acknowledged that Russia and China dominate the market and are ceding the clean energy arena to their State-Owned Enterprises, with which our private companies cannot compete. Authoritarian countries that don’t share our values should not be allowed to lead this industry worldwide. Instead, conservatives in America need to reclaim leadership over this industry and the entire environmental agenda by advancing commercial solutions that work.

A “Real Green Deal” is not one that’s driven by the far-left environmentalist agenda but by unleashing America’s innovative capacity to produce free-market enterprise solutions that have been stifled for decades. The table has been set for conservatives in the U.S. to lead an ally-supported, clean energy future that will ignite a nuclear energy renaissance. Climate objectives can be achieved while ensuring our position of global energy dominance also serves as a firewall against the advancement of an ever-aggressive China and its accomplice, Russia.  

Hybrid nuclear solutions don’t have to compete with renewables but should be complementary and are necessary to round out a comprehensive energy strategy.  A conservative-led plan will do more than keep the lights on but will provide life-saving, game-changing power to the world, ensuring abundant water and plentiful food – all without the bait and switch of Chinese offered solutions which may have immediate benefit but result in long term betrayal.

• Peggy Grande (@peggy_grande) is the author of “The President Will See You Now: My Stories and Lessons from Ronald Reagan’s Final Years.” She was executive assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1989 – 1999 and served as a political appointee in the Trump Administration. She was Chair of World for Brexit, serves on the National Board of the Royal Commonwealth Society of the USA and the Board of Advisors for Pepperdine University School of Public Policy. She lives in Los Angeles.

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