Alaska’s young Republicans: It’s time to act on climate change

$700 million. That’s how much climate change could cost Alaska, every year, if global temperatures continue to rise at current rates. With the Arctic warming twice as quickly as the rest of the world, addressing climate change is more important in Alaska than perhaps anywhere else.

We simply cannot afford inaction.

As young conservatives and active members of the GOP, we worry that if our party fails to address climate change soon, its political future may be at risk. By supporting a targeted, free-market response to the climate crisis — such as the Baker-Shultz Plan — our party can uphold its core values while gaining the support of new constituencies.

To be clear, we aren’t saying Republicans have shirked environmental action. Rather, Alaskans should be proud of the environmental achievements of our Republican delegation in Congress over the past few years. In fact, we think they are among the Republican lawmakers best suited to lead national climate policy.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have already proven to be an effective bridge between the two parties, while securing policy wins for Alaska, as demonstrated with the recent American Energy Act of 2020 and COVID-19 relief bill.

As Sen. Murkowski concludes her six-year term as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the passage of this bill represents a major achievement for our country and Alaska. Crafted under Chairman Murkowski’s leadership, the American Energy Act is the most significant piece of energy and climate legislation in decades.

Sen. Sullivan, whom we actively supported in his most recent reelection bid while encouraging other young Alaskans to do so, has emerged as a commonsense leader in the arena of environmental policy. This year, in an effort to combat rising levels of plastic ocean debris, Sen. Sullivan sponsored the sweeping Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump last month.

President Biden has already signaled his administration’s prioritization of climate change policy. Considering the 50-50 split of the U.S. Senate — with Vice President Harris casting a tiebreaking vote — any substantive policy changes should include Republicans at the table. We think combating climate change can serve as an area of bipartisan cooperation and show Americans that our elected officials can and want to work together for a prosperous future.

The numbers show that young people from both parties support more action on climate change. Young Republican voters are much more willing to support climate-related legislation, even across party lines, than older GOP voters. If Republicans take the lead on this issue, we have a better chance of addressing the climate crisis with rational free-market solutions rather than allowing Democrats to resort to the top-down approach espoused by progressives who believe we can regulate our way to an effective solution.

Alaskans are acutely aware of the dangers a changing climate poses to our economy and way of life. Demonstrated by ever more erratic salmon runs, melting permafrost destroying homes and infrastructure across northern Alaska, and wildfires covering the state in smoke, the impacts from climate change will continue to intensify — costing lives and millions of dollars in lost economic activity.

In order to mitigate the worst effects of a changing climate, organizations like Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends support a price on carbon. Dubbed the “Baker-Shultz Plan,” James Baker and George Shultz, former Republican cabinet Secretaries under President Ronald Reagan, drafted a plan to place a gradually rising price on carbon and return the revenues collected as a dividend to the American people. Under the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends plan, the average American family of four could expect a dividend of more than $2,000 annually. The best part is, this plan is proven to be effective and will slash carbon emissions by 57% by 2035, while increasing GDP by $190 billion per year compared to the regulatory approach.

Supported by energy companies — such as ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips — and environmental groups alike, the Baker-Shultz plan is a free-market solution proven to unleash the power of American innovation, promote sustainable economic development, and ensure a near-term competitive advantage for Alaska’s oil and gas production.

We look forward to proactive bipartisan legislative efforts led by Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan during the 117th Congress. After the passage of Ballot Measure 2, Alaskans demonstrated their desire for policy outcomes that put Alaska first, and that’s exactly what the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends plan seeks to accomplish.

Jackson Blackwell was born in Sitka and raised on the Kenai Peninsula and serves as the Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends Alaska Regional Director. Kobe Rizk was born and raised in Fairbanks and will graduate from Yale University in May of 2021 with a degree in history and energy studies. Jackson and Kobe served as co-chairs of the Young Alaskans for Sullivan 2020 campaign.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.