Commentary: Romney is striking the right balance on climate change

The earth is getting warmer, no doubt about it. While sometimes it’s a little touchy for Republicans to focus on climate change as a top priority, two members of Utah’s congressional delegation are doing so — to their credit.

Sen. Mitt Romney talks frequently about climate change and the need to address it. Rep. John Curtis has organized the Conservative Climate Caucus, now with about 50 members.

I applaud them for showing leadership on this matter. And they’re doing it in a responsible, smart, practical way, emphasizing innovation and free market solutions, not radical mandates and regulation that would damage the economy and reduce the wealth that is necessary to effectively tackle climate change.

Romney himself has said that some climate change approaches, such as the “Green New Deal” proposed by ultra-progressives, are “silliness.”

The great thing about working on climate change is you get a two-fer: Many of the same measures that address carbon emissions also help reduce pollution and clean up our air — which we absolutely need in Utah.

Of note, Congress is currently debating a large infrastructure bill and other very large expenditures. Romney is in the middle of the discussions, attempting to forge a bi-partisan compromise on the infrastructure legislation.

I’m not a fan of additional deficit spending or higher taxes. But Romney argues that Congress can find money to pay for much-needed improvements in the nation’s infrastructure without additional debt. If approached wisely, many of the proposed infrastructure improvements will also address climate change.

The key is to invest in things that will really make a difference. That doesn’t necessarily mean enormous projects. Like air pollution, a million (maybe a billion) little things cause climate change, and it will take a million (billion) little lifestyle changes to improve it.

There are absolutely important and practical things we can do to slow and eliminate climate change. I serve as a trustee for the Utah chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). This mainstream conservation organization is focused squarely on climate change with practical, science-based solutions. TNC works with all stakeholders and understands the importance of jobs, economic vitality and local control in this fight.

The TNC approach mirrors Romney’s approach, and that is the right formula to bring all sides together to really make a difference.

I believe a foundation is being laid for major progress on climate change, even though worldwide emissions are not declining right now.

Thanks to innovation, the free market, and a mix of incentives, the transportation industry is moving rapidly toward much reduced carbon emissions. Electric cars and public transit, combined with clean electricity to recharge batteries and power light rail, will reduce emissions. A significant investment is needed in electric vehicle infrastructure, including charging stations.

The energy sector is making rapid progress as well. Solar and wind electric generation, backed up by next-generation nuclear reactors produced in factories, battery and energy-storage technology, and grid upgrades could de-carbonize the energy industry and electrify many transportation and industrial processes, not just in the United States, but across the globe.

A big part of the solution, of course, is helping developing countries, which need enormous amounts of energy, to skip coal and oil and move directly to the newest technologies. The U.S. can set an example to be replicated elsewhere.

Some of the infrastructure money, supporting the economy of the future, could be wisely spent for these sorts of practical solutions.

Romney has rightly noted if we fail to address climate change, it will be viewed by future generations as “an extraordinary lapse in America’s judgment.”

The current infrastructure bill being negotiated by Romney and others is a great step forward on the climate infrastructure we need. Additional smart and practical work will be needed in the years ahead.