Former Texas governor and current U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry delivered a keynote address Wednesday evening in which he said executives and politicians should continue to embrace innovation, not regulation, to tackle global warming. At the same event, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took it a step further, saying there will be drastic economic consequences if politicians can’t come together to combat climate change.
Speaking as part of an EarthX2019 discussion in Dallas on climate change and its economic impact, Perry said there isn’t a profitable path to giving up on fossil fuels entirely. He said that renewable sources of energy offer promise, but lack the consistent supply required to be practical as standalone solutions for driving the economy — for now.
Meanwhile, Graham and his Democratic Senate counterpart, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, discussed the economic peril that lies ahead if the U.S. chooses to ignore the threat global warming poses to our economic security.
Coastal regions are particularly at risk, including Graham’s home state, he said. A study published last year by the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that areas on Hilton Head Island and Johns Island rank in the top 50 nationally for the highest number of homes that will flood regularly by 2045.
“You need to think ahead and defend our coastlines now,” he said, referencing a study by Freddie Mac that warned rising sea levels likely will destroy billions of dollars in property. This looming threat would lead to a steep decline in coastal property values that could have serious repercussions for the broader U.S. economy. “As that risk works its way to the backend, it will be as bad as the mortgage meltdown in 2008, they say, because of the lag time. If we don’t act now, we’re going to get hit later.”
When asked about deniers of climate change, including those within his own party, Graham dismissed them. “If I were sick and 9 out of 10 doctors said, ‘You need to do something’, I would do it. Count me among those who believe in it.”
He also said that the future of his party depends on working to find a bipartisan solution, namely because younger voters consider global warming a key issue. “It’s a real problem, not just for the planet, but for Republicans,” he said. “If you want this party to grow, 18- to 35-year-olds believe in climate change, so you better find a way to get them involved.”
But he added that the answer doesn’t lie within proposed solutions such as the Green New Deal, the climate stimulus package proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “This is a problem, like drinking,” Graham said. “The first thing you gotta do is say greenhouse gas emissions are real and they are caused by C02 emissions. They trap heat. Can you [support] something that is the most practical plan? As Republicans, we’ve got to get the middle, too.”
Whitehouse said Democrats need to do their part to meet Republicans halfway to come up with a bipartisan solution. “It’s not the sort of problem where we can look like we’re solving it, but fail. We have to get this right.” He added businesses won’t invest in something that doesn’t have a revenue proposition. “We need one for carbon capture. You can only go so far with a tax credit. Sometimes the market has to step in.”
Graham agreed on the need to come together in a meaningful way to tackle the issue. “Climate change is real, the science is sound and the solutions are available,” Graham said, adding jokingly that President Donald Trump might require convincing in this area. “If I told Trump that Mueller thinks climate change is a hoax, we’d be well on our way.”