Climate Can't Be Political

Susan Molinary

Let's take a short Presidential history quiz:

1. Over the last 50 years, which U.S. President gave Congress a 37-point message on the environment that eventually led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency? Among other things, it called for improvements to waste treatment plants, federal research aimed at reducing auto emissions and requiring national air quality standards.

2. Over the last 50 years, which U.S. President created the U.S. Global Change Research Program? He also signed the legislation that followed requiring an assessment of climate change at least every four years.

Answer key: 1. Richard Nixon & 2. George H.W. Bush

"...my point is not only to show you that sometimes you can find political allies where you least expect them, but that we must acknowledge a bipartisan effort is necessary to effectively deal with climate change."

OK, now that I have your attention, my point is not only to show you that sometimes you can find political allies where you least expect them, but that we must acknowledge a bipartisan effort is necessary to effectively deal with climate change. As a member of the party, I believe Republican officials must accept the urgency to act, not only because their political base demands it and they will be rewarded at the polls, but because we owe it to future generations.

Obviously, this urgency to act is not the case right now, but it can be the case, because it has to be the case. If you like a challenge, keep reading.

"As a member of the party, I believe Republican officials must accept the urgency to act, not only because their political base demands it and they will be rewarded at the polls, but because we owe it to future generations."

Pew Research reported significantly concerning numbers on just how far apart the political parties are in prioritizing climate change. Among Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents, 78% say climate change should be a top priority. This is a 22% climb from 2016. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 21% recorded climate change as a priority. This percentage reflects no attitudinal change since 2016.

It is easy and understandable to conclude that we should just ignore Republican candidates and voters and focus on keeping the Democrats on a growth trajectory. Certainly, maintaining Democrat support is essential to addressing climate concerns and will demand Democratic presidents, governors, and other elected officials to respond with courage and urgency. Any campaign strategist will tell you that Rule #1 is: maintain your base and expand from there. Democratic base voters could not be more clear as to where the environment is on their list of priorities

"I am not an environmental scientist, but I know that a successful climate change strategy cannot include global agreements, business tax incentives...and federal funding that stops and starts every four or eight years, depending on the partisan makeup of Congress and the White House."

I am not an environmental scientist, but I know that a successful climate change strategy cannot include global agreements, business tax incentives (or penalties), and federal funding that stops and starts every four or eight years, depending on the partisan makeup of Congress and the White House. Over the last 50 years, we have had five Republican presidents and several of them have elevated the issue of climate change even though it wasn't demanded by their base supporters. Currently, there are 26 Republicans and 24 Democratic governors. This means that fortunately, we have a bipartisan group of leaders at this level committed to change. What we don't have, however, is a committed Republican base that will ensure all (ok, most) Republican candidates and leaders won't arrest global warming to outdo their Democrat counterparts.

Pew Research also revealed that Republicans support many pro-environment positions, i.e. tax credits for carbon capture technology, alternative energy strategies, and tougher emission standards for power plants. In other words, as Republicans, we share some important environmental goals with Democrats, but very little progress will be made until base intensity increases. Younger Republican voters are warning that the party cannot concede this issue if Republicans are to remain a viable party in a few years.

"Younger Republican voters are warning that the party cannot concede this issue if Republicans are to remain a viable party in a few years."

If the Republican party could get our base voters' intensity around climate change to match the Democrats, (or even show a rapid increase year over year) the debates would be historic, and so would our environmental contribution to the next generation.

Maybe we need to start, not by arguing that Republican base voters must embrace all aspects of the Green New Deal, but by advocating that climate change is real and time is running out.

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