Calling all Republicans: Our Planet and Country Need You

Ty Seymour

When thinking of an average Republican, one thinks of issues such as tax reform, immigration, and national security, rather than climate issues. Indeed, the modern Republican Party has often prioritized those more recognizable issues to the average voter, and been absent, made excuses -- or even worse -- denied the need to address the climate crisis. Meanwhile, the national consensus is consistent that addressing climate change must be a top priority for our elected leaders. As a young Republican, I can tell you this: climate change is real. Ignoring the issue puts the survival of our party, a healthy planet, and strong national security at risk.

"The modern Republican Party ... has been absent, made excuses -- or even worse -- denied the need to address the climate crisis ... Ignoring the issue puts the survival of our party, a healthy planet, and strong national security at risk."

In the modern era and age of hyperpolarization, it seems as if political parties' paramount objective is winning elections -- even more than enacting effective policy. In failing to address climate change, the Republican Party puts itself at risk in not only losing elections but subsequently being sidelined in policy discussions. Young Republicans recognize this. A consensus of Republican voters is worried that the party's stance and inaction on climate change are hurting our brand and electoral prospects, especially with younger voters. Moreover, Americans overwhelmingly want bipartisanship in addressing climate change.

"Americans overwhelmingly want bipartisanship in addressing climate change. Republican elected officials must realize that the country is eager for action and must recognize that if we do not, we face a serious reckoning."

Republican elected officals must realize that the country is eager for action and must recognize that if we do not, we face a serious reckoning. As the nation grows younger, millennials are now the country's largest generation -- and soon to be the largest voting bloc. This comes with serious political implications. Climate change consistently ranks as the top issue for millennials and Gen Z voters when they consider who they'll vote for. Despite stereotypes of Republicans and our views on climate change, there is a stark generational divide that offers hope in finding resolve. Not only are younger Republicans more likely to believe the government is doing little in addressing the effects of climate change, but they are more likely to see the effects of climate change affecting their communities. Young Republicans, myself included, recognize that we are losing the already small support of younger voters by not addressing climate issues. The party must adapt to remain competitive electorally.

My affiliation with the Republican Party does not stem from climate advocacy, rather derived from my view in strong American leadership in the world and sustaining a strong and robust national security. The climate crisis will affect these tenets in profound ways. By taking climate change seriously, we are ensuring our country's security in the future.

"By taking climate change seriously, we are ensuring our country's security in the future ... that climate change poses serious risks to our security ... The risks are alarming."

Our own nation's security apparatus has given insight -- and warnings -- that climate change poses serious risks to our security. The Department of Defense noted to Congress that, "the effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to the DoD's missions, operational plans, and installations." The risks are alarming. From the majority of military bases and installations being vulnerable to the effects of climate change creating more challenging environments that hinder our readiness and operational capacity -- climate change will have systemic and prolonged challenges if not addressed. Last year, the Director of National Intelligence reported to Congress that, "Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent…" Not only does climate change have serious environmental consequences, but it serves as a "threat multiplier" that can exacerbate and create new global challenges, including terrorism, social upheaval, and mass migration. How does the United States expect to maintain its projection of leadership in the world while simultaneously playing whack-a-mole with not just the immediate risks of climate change, but its fallout, that may be impossible to counter?

"How does the United States expect to maintain its projection of leadership in the world while simultaneously playing whack-a-mole with not just the immediate risks of climate change..."

While the perception of Republican do-nothingness and failure to address climate change erodes some prospect of bipartisan reform, the reality is that the younger GOP has committed leaders tackling the climate crisis. Groups like Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends and leaders from within the College Republican National Committee have made important strides in advancing the conversation about the issue of climate change, and emphasizing that the party must give policy prescriptions to counter the challenges ahead.

"... We stand to lose everything by being bystanders."

This is an opportunity for my party to take the reins and recommit to our legacy of Republican stewardship in climate and environmental protection. To my Republican friends and colleagues: if you care about winning elections, the climate issue is for you. If you care about agriculture and forestry policy, this issue is for you. If you care about our country's security and place in the world, this issue is for you. A strong economy demands it. Our strategic interests home and abroad demand it. Our quality of life and preservation of our only home demand it. The greatest obstacles this country has faced have never been easy, but we stand to lose everything by being bystanders. It is time to step up and meet these modern challenges.