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BIDEN INSTITUTE BLOG A Different Approach to Solving Climate Change

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by Congressman Bob Inglis, Executive Director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative RepublicEN

Bob Inglis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992 and represented Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina until 1998 when he unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate. In 2004, Inglis was re-elected to Congress and served until losing re-election in the South Carolina Republican primary of 2010.

In 2015, Mr. Inglis received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for demonstrating the political courage to break from his party, reversing his position and acknowledging climate change as an issue our nation must address even at the expense of his own political career.

After leaving Congress, Mr. Inglis launched the Energy and Enterprise Initiative (E&EI) at George Mason University, and E&EI is an educational outreach program that lives to demonstrate the power of accountable free enterprise to solve climate change.

At we’re conservatives reaching conservatives on climate change. We believe that free enterprise can solve climate change.

We don’t like to say that we “believe” in climate change, though. As our friend, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe often says, “Climate change is happening whether you believe in it or not.” Instead, we say that we believe free enterprise can solve climate change.  We believe wholeheartedly that free enterprise can spark America’s innovative spirit in search of a solution that will benefit us all, red or blue, east or west, rural or urban.

Political parties are at their best when they think big, when they aim at solutions rather than scapegoats and when they rely on data rather than dogma. There was a consensus that America would lead the world to solutions on climate change. It was well expressed as far back as 1990 by the late President George H. W. Bush. That consensus held through early 2008 as Newt Gingrich appeared in an ad with Nancy Pelosi, making the case for action.

Then came the Great Recession. Fear took hold. Vested interests used that fear to sell some nostalgia about the incumbent fuels, masking their real aim of extracting the last bit of economic rents out of their tired, old technologies. Republicans started saying, “I’m not a scientist” when they were asked about climate change. Years went by and that line began to poll poorly, probably because it was akin to saying, “I’m not a doctor, I have no position on health care; I’m not a truck driver, I have no position on highway funding.”

Meanwhile, the EcoRight has been born, talking about solutions, looking for champions who will listen and act.

And we’ve seen a shift of late. Conservative lawmakers who before shied away from suggesting bold climate action are coming to the table. Climate change is upon us. It’s nonsensical to deny it.

Conservatives are ready to leave behind the denial and enter the competition of ideas about solutions. Climate change is a serious threat, and it requires immediate action.


The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Vice President Biden, the Biden Institute or the University of Delaware.

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Biden Policy Dinner Guest Blog by Congressman Bob Inglis

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