Students For Carbon Dividends, a nationwide student coalition founded by Yale students, launched on Wednesday alongside a wave of national news coverage.
The organization — which members call S4CD — boasts bipartisan support, spanning 34 different student groups across the country, including 23 college Republican clubs. S4CD advocates a free-market solution to climate change as outlined in the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends plan, which was announced in a proposal last year from the Climate Leadership Council. The proposal — authored in part by James Baker III, who served as secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush ’48, and George Schultz, who served in the same position under President Ronald Reagan — argues for a gradually increasing carbon tax and for “carbon dividends” from that tax to be shared with the American people through an organized payment system. It also advocates for the phasing out of Obama-era carbon regulations and suggests that the United States should use trade policies to encourage other countries to adopt carbon pricing models.
The group was founded by Yale students George Gemelas ’18 and Alexander Posner ’19 at the beginning of the fall. Posner and Gemelas described the group as a “solutions-oriented” organization that eschews politicized discussions in order to focus on practically and effectively addressing climate change. Posner described both himself and Gemelas as “political pragmatists” and emphasized that the irreversible damage inflicted by climate change make it an especially pressing issue that requires bipartisan support.
“There is a unique time pressure that demands we have a solution [for climate change] that’s right for our political moment, because that’s the moment we get,” Posner said. “So yes, this is a Republican-led effort, this plan is based on core Republican principles … but it works; it passes the ideological test that conservatives care about, and it meets the environmental goals that liberals and environmentalists care about.”
The bulk of national news coverage from outlets such as Time, The Atlantic, The Verge and Axios has focused on the fact that college Republican groups across the country have thrown their support behind S4CD. The college Republican groups associated with every Ivy League school except Columbia and Princeton are backing the initiative.
In an Op-Ed for CNBC, Kiera O’Brien, a Harvard sophomore who leads the Harvard Republican Club, and Ben Zollinger ’19, president of the Yale College Republicans, argued that the current Republican establishment is alienating a new generation of conservative voters by neglecting to address the issue of climate change.
“As the presidents of the College Republican groups at Harvard and Yale, we have witnessed this play out on our campuses, where climate change and clean energy have become defining issues that often stymie our recruitment efforts,” O’Brien and Zollinger wrote. “President Donald Trump is absolutely right about the need to create jobs, drive economic growth and promote competitiveness. But on climate, he is missing an opportunity to position America as the world leader for the next generation of energy technologies.”
Gemelas said the group hopes people will sign their names on the S4CD website to endorse the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends plan and emphasized that a collective student voice is necessary to encourage Congress to pursue a “concrete, effective and sensible climate solution.” S4CD is holding a teach-in at Yale this Sunday at 3 p.m. for any students interested in learning more about the initiative.
College Democrats at Yale, Princeton, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania have also expressed support for the coalition.
Jordan Cozby ’20, president of the Yale College Democrats, said the Dems are supportive of “even more progressive policy steps” than those outlined by the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends plan. But he added that this framework provides an “important starting point,” and is one of the “few climate proposals that could feasibly be passed given our current political environment.”
While students interviewed by the News said they appreciate S4CD’s mission, some expressed disappointment that the coalition is advocating for the repeal of Obama-era regulations.
“On one end it is ‘better late than never’ for the Republican Party and affiliated persons to support the global effort of mitigating climate change, an issue which needs all the support it can get. But I also felt frustrated that the original plan not only proposes the dividends idea but also advocates for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan or the reduced capacity of the EPA to regulate emissions,” Stephen Early ’20 said. “I would say that it is a relief, though, to move behind the sentiment that climate change is only a ‘liberal’ issue.”
The founding members of the Climate Leadership Council’s corporate and non-government organization include The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, General Motors, Johnson and Johnson, Pepsico, British Petroleum, Total, ExxonMobil, Shell, Schneider Electric, Procter & Gamble, Santander and Unilever.
Britton O’Daly | email@example.com