Divisive politics keep the United States from acting on climate change, James A. Baker III ’52, former secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, told an audience of about 200 students and community members May 10.
“If we continue to battle across partisan lines on the remedy for climate change, then there is an excellent possibility that absolutely nothing will happen,” Baker said.
Instead, Baker offered a plan to combat climate change that he said would appeal to Democrats who want to curb carbon emissions and Republicans who want to avoid government regulation. The proposal would create a four-step carbon-emissions tax, with proceeds distributed to Americans in the form of dividends instead of being returned to the government.
“A carbon-emissions tax could lead to a larger reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, frankly, than all of President Obama’s climate policy,” Baker said.
The carbon tax would curb current government regulations, Baker said: “Almost all of the EPA regulatory authority over carbon emissions could be eliminated, including what would be in President Obama’s clean power plan.”
One student asked what could be done to combat climate change when the Trump administration refused to acknowledge the problem’s existence. Baker insisted that there was still a chance that the administration would consider action.
“We have an administration that’s at least talking about it and considering these things,” Baker said. In fact, he said, they are considering the carbon-tax plan. “That’s not to say that they’re going to embrace it,” he added.
Speaking briefly on national security, Baker expressed concern about the future of international politics. “I think the liberal world order has been very good to this country and we led it, and I’m very anxious that we not depart from that,” he said.