Conservatives Split on Using "Climate" in Addressing the Climate Crisis

 Conservatives Split on Using "Climate" in Addressing the Climate Crisis

Republican governors in coastal states -- like Florida and South Carolina -- are working to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure while avoiding at all costs "the term 'climate change' or [endorsing] policies aimed at combating factors that most climate scientists say are driving warming, such as greenhouse gas emissions," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated, "We're not doing any left-wing stuff."

Forbes: 'We're Not Doing Any Left-Wing Stuff': DeSantis Asked About Infrastructure and Global Warming, December 11, 2021.

Why This Matters

In the past two years, the US has experienced the highest annual tallies of billion-dollar weather disasters since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began compiling such records. And while Republican governors in coastal states tout sea walls and drainage systems to address flooding -- Republican governors in states like Texas and Idaho are upgrading infrastructure to mitigate the effects of wildfires and severe storms.

Cracking the code to find common ground between Republicans, Democrats, and the unaligned is critical if the country is going to address climate change in the ways necessary to solve the problem. Those ways include combining mitigation and adaptation with a clean energy transition that’s spurred by investment in scaling and deployment while also phasing down fossil fuels.

Maybe It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It

We know from polling that Democrats and Republicans are receptive to different messages on climate change. In fact, the model that DeSantis and others are following might eventually help deepen the conversation and level of climate engagement with Republican voters.

But other conservatives are much more forward leaning than these current Governors; former Ohio Governor John Kasich and former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis have tried to outline a pathway on climate that appeals to conservative audiences. And former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger combines policy advocacy with messaging guidance -- arguing that advocates should talk about "pollution" rather than "climate change."

WW0: Republicans For Change, February 4, 2021.

By only focusing on mitigating the effects of climate change without acknowledging the causes, Republican governors are doing little to bridge the political divide. If Americans don't hear that climate change is real and that the solutions are opportunities -- the massive and necessary investments in a clean energy future will not happen.

When it comes to party messaging, Republicans aren't necessarily unified. On climate, Kasich writes that "many of the basic components of a responsible plan have already been test-driven by other nations and some US states, and proven to work by leaders from both sides of the political aisle." In contrast, Texas Governor Abbott blames renewable energy (not frozen gas and coal) for his state's cold-weather power failures in 2021, stating "the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America."

WW0: John Kasich and Susan Molinari Instagram Live conversation streamed on September 3, 2020.

Glimmers of Hope

A December analysis of five surveys by Florida Atlantic University researchers concluded that the share of self-identified Florida Republicans who say they believe in climate change rose to 88% (+5%) over roughly two years beginning in October 2019, and 50% of Republicans said climate change was caused by human activity. Some Republicans like Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) are taking note and have co-founded the Conservative Climate Caucus, which now has 70+ GOP members of Congress and emphasizes private-sector innovation to reduce emissions.

Now This: How the GOP Has Changed on Climate Change, July 16, 2021.