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The lone Conservative voice at this week’s climate change hearing in DC

Benji Backer, president of the American Conservation Coalition, testifies at the Climate Crisis Committee joint hearing September 18, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Much of the headlines over youth climate change testimony in Washington DC this week have been focused on Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, but two other witnesses present had ties to Western Washington. One, Benji Backer, is a conservative.

“It got a lot of positive attention because Greta was there, but I think one of the stories that should be out there for people who identify as Conservatives is that they have a voice on the national level who is talking about conservative solutions to climate change,” Benji Backer told the Saul Spady Show on KTTH. “And those solutions are definitely out there.”

Backer is president of the American Conservation Coalition. He is a senior at the University of Washington and is a fellow at the Chapman Center in Seattle. His voice was featured alongside that of Thunberg and Jamie Margolin (also from the Seattle area).

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“For those who aren’t familiar, when there is a testimony, the minority gets to choose one witness, and the majority gets to choose three in the House,” he said. “I was the Republican-chosen, lone witness on climate change at a hearing.”

“It was absolutely wonderful to see both sides at the same table talking about these issues … it was a group of young climate change activists and we all had different opinions on how to look at the issue of climate change, and limiting emissions, and protecting our environment, and we had different approaches to the issue. But we all agreed on why we need to tackle the issue of climate change,” Backer said.

“Which is something that I think a lot of people often overlook,” he added. “They think that, as Americans, we are more different than we truly are.”

Backer said that his testimony was focused on “common sense” approaches to the problem – beyond taxes and government intervention. Much of that discussion surrounds the beliefs and approaches surrounding climate change. If someone is hesitant to believe the science backing human-caused global warming, they still might be in favor of cleaning up the oceans and protecting the fishing industry, becoming less reliant on oil for national security purposes, or protecting clean air.

“When you look at Conservatives, a lot of the time we are not active in the conversation, which is because we don’t like the solutions proposed by the other side,” Backer said. “But that actually should encourage us to be more inside the conversation. It gives us the opportunity to provide our own solutions, which we haven’t done in a long time.”

“There are environmental issues that are outside climate change, for those who don’t believe in man-made climate change,” he said. “There are plastic pollution issues. Our national parks are not funded the way they should be. Our wildlife and our lands are at risk for different reasons …. they are all important and Conservatives have to have a seat at that table. Which we did last week at this high-profile hearing for one of the first times ever. Instead of being anti this and anti that, we need to have a solution of our own and sit at the table and say ‘OK, I care about ocean plastic, but maybe your approach with big government, we don’t need that. But here’s what we can do.’ And give the Conservative, limited-government alternative.”

Benji Backer on climate change solutions

Backer notes that there are examples of such approaches in Congress currently. One is Use it Act which enhances technology for carbon capture to take emissions out of the atmosphere. Another is the Best Act which deals with enhancing energy storage for clean energy technologies.

An additional argument Backer presents is investing in clean energy technology and alternatives.

“It is way easier to export American technology than to export some big government policy to another country,” he said. “Climate change, and emissions, and environmental protection are global problems … passing something like the Green New Deal is not something that another country is going to implement. But passing a policy that enhances the technology here and makes our technology better is something that China and India can put to use in their own country.”

Listen to the Saul Spady Show weekday afternoons from 6-9 a.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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