HOW RONALD REAGAN SAVED THE BATHING SUIT

By DAVID JENKINS, President of REP’s “sister” organization, Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship.

Originally published in the September 24, 2020 issue of the Arizona Capitol Times in Tucson.

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With the record hot summer Arizona has been having, any hope of being able to enjoy the outdoors hinges on the ability to dress down. That means reaching for shorts, tank tops, swim trunks, and bikinis as much as possible.

What most folks probably don’t realize is that they have President Reagan to thank for these light and skimpy wardrobe options.

As odd as that sounds, it’s true. Back in the 1980s the world was facing a big problem. Scientists had discovered that chemicals used in air conditioners, refrigeration equipment, and aerosols—such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)—were rapidly depleting the earth’s ozone layer.

That layer of our atmosphere acts as a natural protective barrier, preventing us from being bombarded with much more dangerous levels of the sun’s ultraviolet UV-B radiation. Without it, exposed skin would burn in five minutes and the public’s risk of skin cancer would skyrocket.

Despite some naysayers in his cabinet urging him to do nothing, Reagan took decisive action. He approved a national policy on ozone protection and pushed through an international treaty that phased out the use of CFCs and HCFCs.

That is genuine conservative leadership.

Today, thanks to Reagan’s leadership, our protective ozone layer is healing. That 1987 treaty, the Montreal Protocol, is still regarded as the world’s most successful environmental treaty. In the U.S. alone, it prevented an additional 1.5 million skin cancer deaths.

Just think how different our lives would be. We would indeed be wearing wide-brimmed hats, playing golf in long-sleeved shirts—and those bikinis, nothing more than relics of a bygone era.

Reagan’s success with the Montreal Protocol was a point of pride for the Republican Party. Its 1988 party platform heaped effusive praise on the treaty and called for a similar approach in solving climate change.

That would have been nice, but special interests opposed to action on climate change—mainly fossil fuel companies—swooped in and swayed the party away from tackling those problems.

In Reagan, America had a leader who was responsible and forward thinking enough to respond when action was needed to safeguard our atmosphere. He also trusted our free enterprise system enough to recognize that business and industry were up to the task, and would adapt to the necessary change.

Today, climate change is a much more visible and advanced threat than it was in 1988, and we could use Reagan’s brand of bold, genuinely conservative, leadership in tackling that problem.

While the sun’s rays are now friendlier to outdoor recreation, its heat is becoming much less so. The summer of 2020 has been the hottest summer in Phoenix history. Its 50 days with the temperature reaching 110 degrees or more also demolished the previous record of 33 days.

This unprecedented heat, along with other climate-related changes, also threaten Arizona’s water supply, cause poorer air quality, and greatly increase the wildfire risk.

Arizona’s climate has always been one of its biggest draws, attracting plenty of new residents, businesses, and visitors. Climate change poses an existential threat to that appeal, and to the lifestyle and livelihood of every Arizonan.

When faced with a similar threat, President Reagan felt a moral duty to take necessary action to protect the public. Arizona needs its leaders to do the same today.

That means taking full advantage of Arizona’s unparalleled low cost solar energy potential by adopting a strong renewable energy standard. It also means supporting broader climate solutions like the fee and dividend approach advocated by former Reagan cabinet officials, James Baker and George Shultz—and long preferred by economists and business leaders.

If Arizonans do not want to see more heat records broken, or a further reduction of the quality of life here, it is high time we start following Ronald Reagan’s prudent example.

CREDIT LINE: David Jenkins is president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national organization with more than 800 Arizona members.

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