With President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial expected to end in acquittal this week, where should Washington go next?
Dare we suggest: climate action.
It might seem far-fetched, given Trump’s backward and closed-minded retreat to fossil fuels that are warming the planet. Yet a Republican senator from Indiana is challenging his fellow conservatives to lead on the pressing issue.
U.S. Sen. Mike Braun’s call for climate solutions is encouraging and badly needed from the GOP. And it should prompt other Republican senators — including Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson of Oshkosh — to help cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Braun was peppered last week on national television with questions about the ongoing impeachment trial and Republican resistance to witnesses. With varying levels of candor, Braun politely responded to nine queries from host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Then he did something surprising and unprompted. As the interview wrapped up, the freshman senator stressed the need to address climate change.
“When you get through this,” Braun told Todd, “you want to get back on those issues that I came here for: the climate discussion. We’re foot draggers on it.”
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Braun is right. America and the world need to put a price on carbon pollution so the shift to clean energy intensifies. Like Wisconsin, Indiana gets most of its electricity from fossil fuels, especially coal. Yet Braun has repeatedly and impressively emphasized the need to deal with the enormous climate challenge. Rising temperatures are making the Midwest warmer and wetter — threatening key sectors of the economy, especially agriculture.
Braun recently launched the Climate Solutions Caucus in the U.S. Senate with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. Braun, a successful businessman, had the courage to buck his political party’s dismissive approach to climate concerns because voters and the private sector want action. In fact, more than half of Republicans ages 18 to 38 agree that government is “doing too little on climate,” according to a Pew Research Center poll late last year.
Sen. Johnson, who like Braun has a background in manufacturing, should listen to Braun’s economic pitch for cutting carbon emissions. Braun links swift action on climate solutions to “securing America’s energy future and protecting American manufacturing jobs.”
To their credit, U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, and Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, have joined the House Climate Solutions Caucus.
Braun calls scientific evidence of greenhouse gases heating the planet “basic chemistry and physics.” He’s expressed interest in carbon pricing to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technology. He also talks about reforestation and other means of capturing carbon.
Addressing man-made climate change will require significant private and public investment, as well as breakthroughs in technology.
Most Democrats are solidly on board (though sometimes they focus too much on punishment). Republicans have been slow to react if not hostile to the cause.
Braun wants to change that. Good for him. Sen. Johnson, who faces reelection in 2022, should join Braun in pushing for swift bipartisan action.