Meet the #EcoRight! In this series, we profile republicEn members across the country: conservatives, libertarians, and independent thinkers who recognize the seriousness of climate change and support pragmatic solutions.
Katie Esterly is a native Pennsylvanian and a rising junior at American University. In addition to being a republicEn member, she is a member of the College Republicans and an intern at Student for Carbon Dividends, which advocates for free-market solutions to climate change. She has long been a proponent of outdoorsmanship and conservation.
What worries you most about climate change?
The effect on quality of life for us and the natural world, leading to extinction for animal species.
When and why did you first start caring about climate change?
I grew up camping and visiting national parks. Because my family is so outdoors oriented, I came to appreciate the beauty of nature and I felt a need to protect it from a young age. These places cannot be protected without addressing climate change. When I was in high school, I took environmental science which truly convinced me that climate change is real.
How well do you feel your conservative values mesh with climate action?
I personally feel they mesh well. What’s more conservative then conservation? The Republican party has a long history of environmentalism, but I feel that recently, because so many see the environment as a part of a liberal political agenda, conservatives reject it. This doesn’t make sense. Environmental protection should be a common goal for everyone, regardless of political affiliation.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced with being a member of the EcoRight?
I’d say the biggest challenge is no one really understanding what the EcoRight is. People are surprised to hear me say as a Republican that I’m concerned about climate change. My conservative friends and family see environmentalism as a liberal agenda, and so they were very critical at first. There’s been frustration in convincing them that there are conservative solutions to climate change that don’t contradict the principles.
What would you say to Republicans who still deny climate change is a problem?
I would try to demonstrate the science behind it, and the correlation behind atmospheric CO2 and temperature, and how these levels are increasing at an astronomical risk. Taking a risk on being wrong is not consistent with risk management strategy embraced by conservatives. We should restructure the conversation to be solely about the planet rather than using buzzwords. Emissions, air quality, and environmental health are way more effective terms than “climate change.” Who doesn’t want clean air?
How would you address policies coming from the left such as the Green New Deal? Do you think we offer a better solution?
I would state that those policies are unrealistic the Green New Deal’s unfocused nature will not help solve climate change. Pricing carbon is a better solution because it’s cost effective, doesn’t grow the size of government, and can be done right now. The combined power of individuals will always be more powerful than the hand of government.
Who are some Republican leaders who you feel best represent the EcoRight?
Definitely Ryan Costello, my former representative, because in Congress he was on the Energy and Commerce Committee, likely because he has nuclear plants in his district, a power source integral to green energy. He is also the head of Americans for Carbon Dividends.
Are you confident in America’s ability to fight climate using market solutions?
Yes, we have remarkable ingenuity and innovative potential. What we need is a market correction as people will always choose the cheaper solution. If the market was reoriented to include the clear and present dangers of carbon pollution, people will choose differently. Ingenuity just needs a guiding “invisible” hand.
What about this movement makes you feel optimistic for the future?
The rate that it’s grown. Many people on the EcoRight are young, and the skeptics tend to be older, so the ratio will only grow more skewed towards the EcoRight as time advances.
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