Thursday, June 25, 2015

Climate: What Would Reagan Do?

George P. Shultz held positions in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, including Secretary of State for seven years during a key period of U.S. and Russia relations.  One of his positions outside of government was President of Bechtel, the largest construction firm in the U.S.  He is currently affiliated with the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford.  His background is hardly one of an environmental advocate, but he has become a leading voice on the need to address the climate change threat.

Shultz with Ronald Reagan

Sacramento Bee Editorial Page Editor Dan Morain caught up with Shultz during the dedication of a Reagan statue at the California Capitol this week and wrote about his conversation in a column today.  He asked the simple question, "What would President Reagan have done about climate change?"

Shultz told Morain the story of the Montreal Protocol and the ozone hole.  There were doubters at that time, but Reagan "became convinced that the scientists who were worried were probably right."  He framed the action on the ozone hole as an  insurance policy and the U.S. became a leader in pushing for the steps necessary to address the issue.  Schultz described this "insurance policy" as "a gifted approach" and the resulting agreement as "the only environmental treaty that has ever worked."

What would the "insurance policy" on climate change look like?  First, there would be significant federal funding for energy and carbon alternatives.  Second, there would be a carbon tax at the source (e.g. at oil wells) with the money returned to citizens as a "carbon dividend."  On the insurance policy approach:  "That'd be the Ronald Reagan way."

Morain's column can be found here:   Shultz's View of Climate Change

This isn't the first time Shultz has discussed what Reagan would do on climate change.  Earlier this year, he wrote a column in the Washington Post:  A Reagan Approach to Climate Change  He provides a little more detail of his experience with the Montreal Protocol on ozone and the two-pronged insurance policy strategy, concluding "Before you get mugged by reality, take out an insurance policy.  It's the Reagan way."

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