George Shultz: A senior statesman with a climate solution
By Alex Amonette
George Shultz, former Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of Treasury under President Richard Nixon, is one of our country’s leading elder statesmen. Sometimes, we, the American people, have just been plain lucky to have the right person at the right time in our history to literally save our skin. Mr. Shultz is one of these people.
The Montreal Protocol: An insurance policy
In 1989, Mr. Shultz and President Reagan played a vitally important role in negotiating the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, adopted as an international treaty to prevent the degradation of the stratospheric ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons. The ozone layer makes life possible because it shields the earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Consequently, you and I are protected from “an increase in skin cancer rates, and suppression of human immune responses,” as explained in a 1987 memo written by Mr. Shultz to President Reagan. His memo also stated, “Environmental effects of stratospheric ozone depletion could include decreased crop yields, adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems including fisheries, and potentially significant climate change.”
When asked about this treaty, Mr. Shultz said that he and President Reagan took out an “insurance policy” in case the scientists were right about the depletion of the ozone hole. He explained, “There were people who thought there was a problem and there were people who doubted it. But they all agreed there was a big consequence if it happened. So, Ronald Reagan said, ‘Look, let’s take out an insurance policy. At least maybe in the back of your mind you might concede, maybe you’re wrong. And the insurance policy is not necessarily going to cost us forever.’ So he brought them into the tent and got support.”
In February 2017, Mr. Shultz reflected, “As it turned out, the scientists who were worried were right and Reagan’s Montreal Protocol came along just in time.”
Climate change and carbon pricing
Let’s now turn to climate change. In the interview above, Mr. Shultz also said, “I think it is a major problem. There are a lot of people who are skeptical. So, I think what should happen now is the same sort of thing (as the Montreal Protocol). We have a lot of scientific data, I think it’s pretty convincing that we have a genuine big-time problem. This is a matter of observation,” he pointed out. For example, we can see the melting of the Arctic sea ice. He continued, “You see, a new ocean is being created! How is that possible? It’s only possible because it’s getting warmer. I think we should be taking out an insurance policy.”
Mr. Shultz states that we need to protect our climate and solve our political gridlock. He has my full attention and respect.
Due to our continued use of fossil fuels and our greenhouse gas emissions, we’re causing global warming and changing our climate. However, we can convert our economy to one based on carbon-free electricity. Mr. Shultz advocates two similar carbon pricing policies to help get us there:
- Carbon Fee and Dividend: Mr. Shultz is on the advisory board of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which proposes the Carbon Fee and Dividend policy. One of the reasons we refer to our plan as a “fee” rather than a “tax” comes from Mr. Shultz himself: He told us in an early meeting, “It’s not a tax if the government doesn’t keep the money.” The CF&D proposal would place a fee on carbon dioxide emissions at the source, return 100% of the net revenues from the fee to U.S. households, and apply a border adjustment to discourage relocation of businesses and jobs and to encourage other nations to adopt a comparable system. Mr. Shultz told us, “I support what Citizens’ Climate Lobby is doing, and I support your Carbon Fee and Dividend solution. It’s interesting to see a grassroots organization who’s actually doing something. I’m glad to be on Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s advisory panel.”
- Carbon Dividends: Mr. Shultz is also a member of the Climate Leadership Council, which advocates for a carbon dividend policy. This plan would also place a gradually rising price on emissions, return the revenue to Americans, include a border adjustment, but unlike CCL’s plan, the Council calls for eliminating regulations upon the enactment of the carbon tax.
Jim Tolbert, Conservative Caucus, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, counts George Shultz among the “courageous leaders in the Republican Party with foresight and compassion that want to act responsibly,” also naming James Baker and Bob Inglis as members of that group. “We all respond positively to messages from people we already trust, and it is important for Republicans to speak out on climate and energy policy in a way that encourages each of us to be more responsible for our actions.”
Stephanie Doyle, who serves as National Outreach and Partnership Coordinator for CCL, added, “In order to ensure lasting and impactful climate policy that won’t be repealed by the next party in power, we have to find a solution that appeals to both sides of the aisle. Having voices like George Shultz helps to show there is leadership coming from the right, even as we work to find more voices in Congress.”
Solutions abound. From powering dairy farms with manure (or cow power!), to replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs, to electric cars and trucks, we can make the transition away from excess greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Shultz, who drives an electric car, says, “When I’m driving my electric car, I produce way more solar electricity than I use in that car. I’m driving on sunshine and guess what? It’s free and there’s plenty of it.” With a carbon pricing policy, the demand for EVs will increase, lowering their costs, and more of us will be driving them.
The ozone hole is slowly recovering. Thank you for this, Mr. Shultz. Thank you for your continued activities as a senior statesman and for your advocacy for revenue-neutral carbon pricing plans. I am sure more of us will heed your sage advice.
Articles by George Shultz
- Washington Post | June 20, 2017 – This is the One Climate Solution That’s Best for the Environment — and for Business
- Wall Street Journal | February 7, 2017 – A Conservative Answer to Climate Change
- Wall Street Journal | March 9, 2017 – We Thought We Would Hit Your Sweet Spot
- New York Times | May 9, 2017 – The Business Case for the Paris Climate Accord