Many Republicans celebrated Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday because he is considered a unifying figure who skillfully combined principles, pragmatism, and service to the nation. He was a thoughtful conservative-traditionalist who remembered our responsibilities to govern future generations. He has preserved many wild areas so as not to damage their economic development. The way he solved two pollution problems should set an example for Republican politicians today.
During the 1980s, there was scientific evidence that CFCs from cans and refrigerants damage the ozone layer. The layer filters out UV rays, which can cause skin cancer and damage to the environment. Reagan ignored political controversy, ideology, and statements about economic catastrophe – and followed the advice of scholars. He signed the Montreal Protocol, which bans CFC emissions. Economic catastrophes have not happened, and the ozone layer is recovering.
When Canada was concerned that emissions from northeastern power plants were entering Canada and acidifying their lakes, Reagan offered a market solution to the problem. He developed a system of restrictions and trade, according to which polluters had to pay when buying loans, and companies that reduced pollution, received loans. Despite initial complaints, the system worked well and cost much less than energy companies claimed, and none failed.
Scientific evidence has become clear and convincing that human emissions of CO2 cause climate change, endangering the environment and the health of future generations. However, many of our leaders are reluctant to accept scientific evidence. The industries involved say it will be too expensive, and some argue that it will destroy our economy. The system of restrictions and trade proposed to solve the problem has been halted by political controversy. Our current Congress leaders, especially those who ignore science or insultingly call Reagan’s system a “tax limiter,” should look to Reagan as an example.