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This Republican Says His Party's Denial of Climate Science is 'Courting Disaster' With Voters

"We're basically pulling defeat down upon us by taking on this retro affect that says that climate change isn't real... (It's) out of step with where the science is and where the smart money is."

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Bob Inglis - HOUSE.GOV/IMAGES
A "hoax." A "con job." "Bull——." These are among the phrases Donald Trump has used in recent years to express his contempt for the science of climate change.

And while the new Republican presidential nominee is out of step with much of his own party on many issues, he's solidly in the GOP mainstream on this one.

But former Republican representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina says his party and its new leader are wrong on the science, the politics and the economics of climate change.

"We're courting disaster," Inglis says of his party. "We're basically pulling defeat down upon us by taking on this retro affect that says that climate change isn't real... (It's) out of step with where the science is and where the smart money is. ... The smart money is already moving to act on climate."

Inglis aligns himself squarely with that "smart money. After losing a GOP primary to a Tea Party challenger in 2010, despite a 90+ percent conservative voting record, he formed an organization called "republicEn" — for "Energy" and "Enterprise" — that's pushing for what it calls free enterprise approaches to solving our energy and climate challenges.

Most Republicans, Inglis says, are dismissive of the scientific consensus on climate change because "they don't like the solutions. They assume that solution is a bigger government." But he believes there's "a small government" solution, based on free enterprise.

"What we have here is a problem of economics that has an environmental consequence," Inglis says. "And so if we fix the economics — which actually is acceptable to many people on the left and on the right — we can bring Americans together and solve this problem, and in the process make some money while we're serving customers with better energy sources around the world."

All that's needed to sieze that opportunity, he says, is "a little touch of government to make everyone accountable for their emissions."

But that "little touch" is something that's been a total non-starter among nearly all of Inglis's fellow Republicans, and many Democrats: a carbon tax, to make polluters pay for the environmental and social cost of their emission. The new Republican party platform explicitly rejects the idea, while simultaneously endorsing a revival of the sagging coal industry, arguably the worst single source of climate-warming pollution.

Inglis says the GOP's embrace of coal is "yet another sign of the death gasp" of what he calls the "Grumpy Old Party," which he says rejects innovation and new ideas.

In its place, he says, "we are hoping for the birth of the Grand Opportunity Party. It's a very different place, that says, 'Yeah, we can do this.'"

On climate change in particular, Inglis says his carbon tax proposal would unleash innovation in low-carbon energy technology. It would be revenue neutral, he says — meaning other taxes would in turn be reduced. And it would be "border-adjustable" — meaning it would be applied to imports and eased for exports to keep American products competitive.

Once that's in place, Inglis says, "then the government can step back and watch free enterprise fix the problem."

"We've got a better solution" to climate change that Republicans should endorse, he says.

But instead, he says his party is "shrinking in science denial because we don't like the [Obama administration's] solution."

It's among the reasons he's in a tough spot heading into November.

"It's impossible for me to vote for Donald Trump, of course, because he's just antithetical to everything that I believe as a conservative," Inglis says.

So will he vote for one of Trump's opponents, perhaps even Democrat Hillary Clinton or Green Jill Stein, both of whom take climate change seriously?

"I don't know yet," Inglis says. "It's really difficult."