There is an age old saying that goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Unfortunately, the same can be said with regard to recent attempts by conservatives and Republicans to position themselves as climate change warriors “lite”.

Several conservative politicians including Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the current Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, are regrettably endorsing the “American Climate Contract” – a document that calls for the U.S. to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Members of Congress like McCarthy have stood up for many good measures that support limited government and free market principles in the past, which makes this move surprising.

Here’s what McCarthy said in a statement on the matter:

Conservative plans for the environment, as this contract does, understand that lasting and effective environmental progress depends on American innovation and exporting that technology around the world — not on enforcing debilitating taxes or punitive mandates.”

Of course, all conservatives want a clean environment. And not “enforcing debilitating taxes or punitive mandates” is a great selling point to draw in almost any rightward leaning individual.

Yet the most tangible (and objectionable) policy outlined in the American Climate Contract is “global net-zero carbon emissions by 2050”.

This, by itself, is an awful thing for conservatives to sign on to. The United States can, and should, take efforts to continue to improve our environment – but pledging to a global and national net zero of carbon emissions would not just wreak havoc on an already struggling economy, it would have little to no environmental benefit.

Yes, of course climate change is happening. It always has and always will. And yes, human activity may have an impact on the climate – though the extent of that is subject to much debate. But signing up for such a sweeping reduction in CO2 emissions is tantamount to falling in line behind Al Gore and Greta Thunberg – going along with the notion that the planet is undergoing a climate “crisis” or “emergency” that requires expunging ourselves of fossil fuels.

That is not sound science or environmental policy — and it’s certainly not conservative.

To be sure, there are some things in the American Climate Contract that are good ideas. Continuing research into new energy technologies and seeking to diversify America’s energy portfolio are both worthy undertakings to bolster efficiency and improve national security.

The American Climate Contract also points out many faults in the Green New Deal and clearly states it is not advocating for a carbon tax. That is also very good.

But at the core of the issue with the American Climate Contract is that it uses President Obama’s strategy of demonizing carbon dioxide.

During President Obama’s administration, the EPA issued its now infamous “endangerment finding.” This scientifically flawed rule determined that CO2, a trace gas essential to all life on Earth, is dangerous to humans and the planet. EPA bureaucrats then used it as a green light to impose very regressive and burdensome big government regulations to kill coal energy, mandate more restrictive car emissions, and attempt to put severe emissions restrictions on all power plants.

The Contract, by demonizing CO2, opens up a dangerous back door for the radical Left to exploit – one that conservatives and Republicans should not be opening wide for them. Even if one believes that CO2 emissions should be reduced, pledging to attain “net zero by 2050” paves the way for aggressive government action, and some version of a Green New Deal in the future.

On a debate stage, once a conservative candidate concedes that we must take drastic action to have net zero emissions, it is not hard for the more left-leaning candidate to convince the electorate of big government action.

One could see it going like this: “I’m glad my opponent agrees we are in a climate emergency. But if we are in an emergency, then let’s act like it! We don’t have time for businesses to figure out solutions. We need action now. We need the government to put a stop to emissions before the world ends!”

Radical environmentalists like Greta Thunberg, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and groups like the Sunrise Movement and Fridays for Future do not want to work with you. Their goal is clear, and they have said it many times. Their goal is to destroy capitalism. They see capitalism as an absolute evil, and every climate policy they advocate for is designed to hammer free market competition and increase centralized government control over the individual.

As the old adage goes: “Be careful who you trust – Salt and Sugar look the same.”

By signing onto plans like the American Climate Contract, you may not be directly supporting the Green New Deal and its advocates, but you are most certainly clearing a path for them.

Now, of all times, is not the moment to compromise on American ideals and concede ground to self-avowed socialists who see capitalism and private property as problems.


  • Adam Houser coordinates student leaders for CFACT’s collegians program and writes on issues of climate and energy.