Talking Heads: Climate Change

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“Talking Heads” is an ongoing dialogue among campus political groups that serves as an open forum for discussing major national issues. All political groups are welcome to participate in a respectful manner that is representative of their party’s platform. If you represent a political group that would like to participate in “Talking Heads,” please contact Halcyon Ruskin at hfruskin@smcm.edu. Each edition of The Point News will feature a new topic of discussion. This edition’s topic is climate change. Responses were provided by Simon Kolbeck of the College Democrats (D) and Grayson McNew of the College Republicans (R).

TPN: What is your party’s assessment of the efforts the United States’ government has taken to address climate change?

D: While there have been attempts at slowing down the pressing problem of climate change and the severe weather that accompanies it, we believe that not enough is currently being done. Our government could in fact do a lot more to slow down climate change by drafting programs designed to encourage the use of renewable energy technology.  Before we can engage in discussion and implement programs, such as solar panel subsidies for businesses and families, we will need to loosen the stranglehold that coal and gas companies have on politicians.  

R: It is no secret that some of our elected Republican officials’ views on climate change are both shortsighted and sometimes plainly ignorant of the facts. But as we are sure you are already aware, especially in our current election, our elected officials do not always represent every Republican. At its core, our party believes that economic prosperity should not be bogged down by fines and regulations. This is so that industry can expand and develop without a high cost to enter the market. This means more business’ and hence more competition which drives prices down. We also believe that we need to create and maintain a safe and healthy world for our children and the future generations yet to come…we need to invest more in energy alternatives—like nuclear and hydrogen—than we currently do.

TPN: To what extent should the United States be involved in international climate initiatives?

D: The United States, being the superpower that it is, should be on the forefront of involvement in international climate initiatives.  The Obama Administration has frequently attempted to take bold climate action both nationally and internationally, but these efforts have been consistently struck down.  The United States will not be able to leverage international support for climate change unless it is able to act as an exemplary, clean-energy actor domestically, which hinges on the willingness to accept the fact that climate change is a real problem and that clean coal and fracking are not a long-term, feasible solution.

R: The world is connected. What we do in the United States directly impacts our shared atmosphere, a resource more precious than anything on Earth. But there is little we can do other than suggest that other countries move toward alternative energy resources, because they must act in their own economic interests as well as develop their own standard of living. We also recognize and understand that we cannot force people to change how they choose to live their lives. This will forever impede a movement toward clean energy, but it should not discourage us from seeking alternative energy resources.

TPN: What are the economic incentives and/or consequences of pursuing climate-friendly energy alternatives?

D: Pursuing climate-friendly energy alternatives unfortunately comes with an initial economic hurdle that must be overcome. Coal and gas are currently cheaper alternatives, and therefore, businesses and consumers are often more inclined to utilize these resources. Coal and gas are also massive industries that employ thousands of workers. However, the reality is that these industries are not going to be around forever as coal and gas will run out eventually. We must therefore reduce the cost of initial clean energy investment that is very often too expensive for businesses and households. Once this initial investment hurdle is overcome, the economic benefits will stack up, as solar panels and wind turbines basically produce energy at close to no cost.  Consumers and businesses would then have more money to spend on other products and services.

R: If the government wishes to provide economic incentives to move toward climate-friendly energy alternatives, you will hear no argument from most Republicans, so long as a tax increase is not used to pay for it. We must give tax breaks to businesses in the form of tax refunds and lower taxes, with the hope that it will incentivize and promote energy research and development, but first, we must balance our national budget and get out from beneath the crushing debt that we are under. The United States cannot feasibly provide these incentives for any long-term solutions, because we have no money to invest without creating more debt for future generations. If we can solve the budgetary crisis we are in, then we can effectively promote and incentivize green energy alternatives, but until then, we are forced to hope that the free market economy will do this for us.

TPN: How (if at all) should the United States address the issue of climate change in the future?

D: The United States should focus on building up renewable energy domestically by helping businesses invest in green energy technologies.  When we as a country become climate friendlier domestically, we will be in a much better position to leverage other countries to follow our lead in addressing this global problem.  

R:  If the United States wants to address climate change, we need to not only raise a generation that is knowledgeable of its dangers, but also one that has the technology and budget to pursue it. Both hydrogen and nuclear energy are America’s future. These could power our cars and our homes with little social change and nothing more than water vapor as an emission. Nuclear energy may seem like a scary thought, but in reality we have only had three major incidents in the past 60 years involving nuclear reactors. In comparison, the damage those three incidents caused was far less than the damage coal, natural gas, and oil has caused within the last decade alone. The United States government has already made steps to encourage domestic nuclear energy development, and we hope we can continue to do so. But before we can handle these major problems facing our environment, we must first address our looming debt so we can effectively provide these incentives to promote clean energy alternatives.

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Stay tuned for the next installment of “Talking Heads” when the topic will be the federal budget.

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