As the novel coronavirus has dominated the headlines, there have been stories connecting the pandemic to plummeting pollution levels. Amid a near-global economic shutdown, it is not surprising to see human-related emissions decline. After all, fewer cars are on the roads, many factories are closed and most people are advised to spend as much time at home as possible.

What has been surprising, however, is the strategy of climate alarmists to exploit this pandemic to justify a Green New Deal. The Green New Deal is a resolution introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey that lays out a very progressive plan to fight climate change. Such a massive program, they say, would accelerate the economic recovery in the aftermath of this pandemic.

Of course, this is all nonsense, and in fact, a Green New Deal in action would more closely resemble the current shutdowns we are enduring as opposed to an economic resurgence. The progressive plan is incredibly ambitious and would put enormous strain on energy and infrastructure systems we have in place. Instead of a high stakes wishlist, we need real climate action now.

Climate alarmists have warned of impending doom for quite some time now, but trying to extract political capital from a deadly virus takes their hysteria to new heights. This latest episode displays the massive disconnect between so-called climate hawks and everyday Americans, with the latter simply wanting realistic climate change solutions that don’t involve a government takeover of the economy.

I am one of those Americans who accepts the urgency of climate change but understands that sacrificing the economy cannot be part of any solution. I am not alone in holding these views, which is why the work of the American Conservation Coalition and its American Climate Contract are so imperative.

This proposal is years in the making and is the culmination of efforts to raise awareness on climate change within the Republican Party. Groups like the American Conservation Coalition have led the charge, and polling now shows that younger Republicans are increasingly attentive to climate change.

Adhering to traditional conservative support of free markets, the American Climate Contract upholds the idea that environmental and economic successes go hand in hand. Opening up energy markets, for example, will allow different power sources to compete with one another, ultimately leading to lower prices and reduced emissions.

Now, skeptics of this market-based approach will say that fossil fuels are prone to dominate in such an environment. While it is true that fossil fuels fulfill a strong majority of our energy demands, this is largely the result of excessive regulatory barriers as opposed to a lack thereof. A true market-based approach would seek to eliminate subsidies that favor certain energy sources and roll back regulations, such as siting and permitting requirements, that impede renewable power development. Taking these steps would create a true level playing field in the American energy sector and hasten emissions reductions.

Investing in modern and clean technologies will also allow us to lower emissions methodically without the need for an impractical, mandated transition to 100% renewable energy. Some of these technologies include carbon capture, which removes point source waste from the atmosphere, and advanced nuclear, which allows for the construction of smaller reactors and makes it possible for rural communities to take advantage of the nation’s leading source of carbon-free electricity. Just as the natural gas boom led to a sharp decline in carbon dioxide levels in the United States, a commitment to market-driven innovation and technology holds the key to further reductions in the future.

In Georgia, a market-based approach has led to massive growth in the solar power industry. In 2019, the state was second in the nation in the number of solar power jobs added. This growth was not the result of some sweeping mandate, but rather industry leaders capitalizing on falling solar prices and an abundance of land suitable for panel installation. These trends help to reduce emissions in Georgia and inject even more good-paying jobs into our state’s economy.

What sets the American Climate Contract apart as a solution for Georgia and the United States as a whole is that it’s not just another partisan proposal designed to elicit outrage and media attention. It instead contains actionable, pragmatic solutions that individuals across the political spectrum can support and see real results. Unlike with the non-binding Green New Deal, we do not have to wait for a particular candidate to advance the ideas in the American Climate Contract forward. We can take action now.

It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to join forces in support of a realistic climate change agenda and prove that they care about this issue. The future of the state, country and the wonderful environment in which we live depends on it.

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