When building solutions in addressing the global threat of climate change, pitting the private sector against global environmental interests should not be our de-facto ideological foundation. Contrary to the implicit assumptions underlying the Green New Deal, the environmental, public health, and economic costs associated with those sorts of climate solutions would make the post-COVID reconstruction of the global economy even more difficult. If we look to the public sector to lead the way on environmental preservation while shedding the costs onto job-providing businesses and the everyday taxpayer, our world will end up with black skies, chronic conditions, and empty wallets.
I agree with the rest of my generation that social, public, and private sectors must mobilize together to address climate change. But we should anticipate long-term cultural impact from our COVID shutdowns, which many view as a government-led, exceptionally brutal, and fully-intentional gutting of the strongest U.S. economy in decades. A bureaucratic approach calling for a similar disruption to the American and global economies in the name of combating climate change will leave Americans skittish and angry. The political fallout may entrench the fruitlessly divisive nature of approaches like the Green New Deal for perhaps 30 years. But to tackle climate change, we have to act now, and we cannot afford to have only this kind of a solution. It is not realistic to expect overspent, bureaucratic, and dysfunctional world governments to deliver on climate change policy that would simultaneously accommodate a healthy global economy. In a time of reflection, strife, anxiety, and a great longing for national renewal, we need a paradigm shift on addressing climate change across the world, starting in the U.S.
I support The American Conservation Coalition’s American Climate Contract and its subsequent calls for responsible rebuilding of the post-COVID U.S. economy. This approach embodies the belief that free-enterprise solutions must play both a majority and an essential role of humanity’s efforts in protecting the Earth. Climate-friendly regulation will not suffice to catalyze strong climate change solutions, but a pro-business, enterprise-led strategy might. My work in Mongolia makes my resolve all the more clear.
While in graduate school, I had the opportunity to work at an expatriate-run, fast-paced luxury property development company in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. A country with exceptional natural beauty and a tumultuous economic journey since the fall of the Soviet Union, Mongolia had the highest GDP growth of any country in the world, at 17% in 2011. But it instituted big-government foreign investment laws in 2012 that led to a slowdown of mining operations, one of its most lucrative industries. Subsequently, it saw the downgrading of its credit rating in 2016 and an IMF bailout in 2017.
Heavy-handed, restrictive regulatory approaches have left Mongolians with black skies, chronic conditions, and empty wallets. This case is a microcosm of the failures we should expect when leaning on the ideological undercurrents of left-leaning climate policy, namely, that the public sector’s anti-enterprise approaches will not harm the environment. So for the sake of our Earth, and much of its people, these lessons from Ulan Bator must translate into free-market environmental action across our world. It’s time we take a new approach to this urgent, global problem, so dysfunctional governments can get out of the way while free-enterprise solutions set the course for a greener, safer future.
Isaac J. Miller served as student body president of Arizona State University, where he earned a degree in philosophy, and holds an master’s from Thunderbird School of Global Management.