For a cleaner, more prosperous world, ACC mobilizes conservatives around environmental issues, fostering collaboration in the pursuit of environmental conservation.
Growing up, I had the opportunity to explore Virginia’s wide range of natural and historical sites. Moving all the way to Idaho for college gave me the opportunity to fully witness the incredible biodiversity of the United States. I remember feeling like I was in another world when I went out west for the first time to visit family in Utah. All in the same country, I have seen forests, deserts, rainforests, and mountains large and small. Seeing the diverse beauty of nature led me to develop a great love and respect for our environment from a young age.
My beliefs have always leaned in the libertarian direction. I believe in individualism, peace, individual rights, limited government, and the power of free markets. These beliefs align with the respect I have for our environment, and it is true that liberty and environmentalism go hand in hand. To that end, research conducted by Mikhail Bernstam found that nations that had the most controlled economies also suffered the worst environmental problems. During the 1970s and 1980s, the amount of throughput of resources and environmental disruption quickly declined across competitive market economies. The former Soviet Bloc countries saw an increase in environmental disruption along with economic stagnation during this same time. In the absence of market forces, there was little incentive to decrease material use or consider environmental impact.
The libertarian focus on limiting harm to others should be applied to climate change and the many other environmental issues we face. We ought to be aware of potential externalities. Future generations should not be deprived of the liberties that come with living in a healthy, geographically diverse planet.
Sadly, the general consensus casts private property and free-market competition as major enemies of the environment. Many of today’s more popular ideas on how to address climate change would result in a dramatic increase in the size and scope of government and restrain liberty. These ideas would uphold the status quo that is often defined by inept bureaucracy and overregulation. While these drastic proposals must be rejected, that is no excuse to ignore the real issues they seek to address. The link between human activity and climate change is undeniable. We must take action.
This is why the work the American Conservation Coalition is doing is so important. The American Climate Contract outlines an approach to addressing our environmental issues that libertarians can get behind. One of my favorite sections of the Climate Contract addresses energy innovation. This proposal understands the power of free markets. Competitive markets rely on innovation. In competitive market economies, firms must work to innovate, improve quality, and offer greater choice to attract consumers. Combating climate change and reducing CO2 emissions will rely heavily on innovative energy technologies.
Expanding nuclear energy is another crucial step to developing an innovative energy portfolio as it is the largest source of carbon-free power in the United States. Importantly, nuclear is also more reliable than other carbon-free energy sources. In order to expand nuclear energy, however, we must reduce the regulatory burden. Consumers should be able to choose clean energy options through deregulated markets. Deregulating energy markets introduces competition and allows consumers to purchase cleaner energy. This is one example of many proposals in the Climate Contract that would benefit both the environment and the economy.
Anyone interested in limiting harm to others should work to combat the negative effects of climate change. Anyone interested in preserving liberty should be interested in preserving our environment. While much of our modern discourse has turned into a pointless, partisan messaging war, the American Conservation Coalition is doing real work to build coalitions to promote environmental sustainability and economic growth.
This is the twelfth installment of “My Contract Story,” an ongoing series on the ACC Blog to tell personal stories of ACC team members and allies about why they support the American Climate Contract. Read previous editions here.