Former GOP congressman visits Utah, pushes conservatives to take on climate change

Cyclists head north into central St. George along one of the city's many paved trails. Outdoor activity like cycling is a major part of the city's plans for both recreation and transportation as population growth and increased visitation put more pressure on local roads, but high temperatures often dissuade people from venturing out during the hottest months.
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A former Republican congressman who's spearheading a bipartisan effort to stop a climate crisis is stopping in southwestern Utah this week with a message for the region's conservative majority: Climate change is real, and conservatives should be a part of finding a solution.

On consecutive nights — Monday at Utah Tech University and Tuesday at Southern Utah University — former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, who denied that climate change was real when he represented South Carolina's 4th District until 2011, is set to join panel discussions about climate change, its scientific basis, the potential bipartisan solutions in the works and the role conservatives could play in saving the planet.

"Conservatives are the indispensable partner for action on climate and many on the EcoRight are slowly stepping up to lead,” said Inglis, who has said previously that he changed his mind on climate change after discussing it with his children and poring through the science.

Inglis's tour through southwestern Utah starts Monday with a panel discussion hosted by the UTU Institute of Politics & Public Affairs inside the ballroom of the Kenneth N. Gardner Student Center, where he'll be joined by Dr. Logan Mitchell, a climate scientist and energy analyst for Utah Clean Energy; Ivins City Mayor Chris Hart; and Dannielle Larkin, a member of the St. George City Council. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and is open and free to the public.

The panel "will discuss if there is common ground that all sides can agree upon, whether conservative solutions are desirable and what opportunities adopting clean technology might bring to Southern Utah, the state and the nation," according to an event description published by the university.

Vince Brown, director of UT’s Institute of Politics & Public Affairs, is the scheduled moderator.

The following evening in Cedar City, Inglis is slated to be part of a "Conservative Climate Forum" at SUU, where he'll be joined by Dr. Jacqualine Grant, an associate professor of Biology at SUU; Paul Monroe, the general manager of the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District; and Tyler Melling, a member of the Cedar City Council.

Bob Inglis
Bob Inglis

That event is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Church Auditorium inside the Sharwan Smith Student Center and is hosted by the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service. The forum is slated to stream live online via the Leavitt Center's Facebook page, @leavittcenter.

A lawyer by trade, Inglis has become a major advocate for climate change policies since he left office, and he now runs RepublicEn (with a capital 'E'), which promotes market-oriented policies as a "conservative" set of solutions.

The main policy proposal would be the implementation of a free-market policy solution in the form of a revenue-neutral, border-adjustable carbon tax that would tax companies for their carbon emissions but lower taxes in other areas.

Sprinklers run in downtown St. George off one of the main business areas along St. George Blvd. Officials worry a hotter, drier climate over time could threaten the area's water supply and make green lawns like this one a thing of the past.
Sprinklers run in downtown St. George off one of the main business areas along St. George Blvd. Officials worry a hotter, drier climate over time could threaten the area's water supply and make green lawns like this one a thing of the past.

There are no specific taxes on carbon or methane emissions in the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act, but experts say the legislation included language that suggests a carbon tax or other measure could still be possible.

The idea still has legs with some advocates in Utah, including the local chapters of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a group that has pushed for years to see some sort of cap-and-trade legislation passed.

"As part of a 650-mile listening tour of Utah, I am looking forward to learning how local communities are being impacted by our changing climate and how the local, regional and national solutions can help us face this challenge together," said Bill Barron, who founded the CCL chapter in Salt Lake City more than a decade ago.

David DeMille writes about southwestern Utah for The Spectrum & Daily News, a USA TODAY Network newsroom based in St. George. Follow him at @SpectrumDeMille or contact him at To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: Bob Inglis to join conservative climate change talks at Utah Tech, SUU