House Republicans Start Saying "Climate Change" Ahead of Midterms

House Republicans Start Saying "Climate Change" Ahead of Midterms

As fuel prices rise to record highs since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ahead of the 2022 midterms, House Republicans are preparing a new, six-part climate and energy strategy should they win control. The proposal, developed by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), "Energy, Climate, and Conservation” is composed of six policy pillars:

  • Unlock America’s Resources
  • Beat China and Russia
  • Let America Build
  • Build Resilient Communities
  • American Innovation
  • Conservation with a Purpose

The strategy does not address greenhouse gas emissions through reductions targets, nor does it aim to increase renewable energy production specifically. But it does represent a new party line on climate. As Committee Chair, Representative Garret Graves (R-LA), told POLITICO: "We are creating a clear coherent energy strategy that returns the US to an emissions reduction trajectory as opposed to what we are seeing under the Biden administration, which is failing every test, whether it be affordability, emissions, or security.”

Why This Matters

With this proposal, the GOP hopes to appeal to younger, more educated, and suburban voters who are, as the party is realizing, turned off by climate denial. But, the strategy does promote innovation in the private sector without targeting the high-emissions fossil fuel industry specifically. The House seats up to be flipped are among the nation’s most competitive, and the GOP sees them as critical to their victory in the midterms. They also recognize that toeing the Trump line of climate denial is a millstone around their party’s neck.

WW0: How To Climate Change, September 23, 2020.

In addition, Republicans hope to highlight the shortcomings of what they see as the Biden Administration’s "too-far, too-fast” approach to climate change. At a time when the US must buckle down to slash emissions, the GOP’s approach to halting climate action is dangerous. According to the IPCC, the world is quickly running out of time to limit warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with Paris Agreement goals. No nation (especially the US) can afford to slow down now.

Reuters: World could see 1.5C of warming in next five years, May 10, 2022.

WMO: The WMO State of the Global Climate in 2021, May 18, 2022.

A Case-By-Case Response

Until now, Republican politicians have taken a case-by-case approach to climate change-related issues. In some red states, such as Florida, Republicans have already started to take actions for adaptation, albeit without saying the word climate. As coastal cities flood, the impact of climate change is simply unavoidable, even if the threat remains unnamed. In Texas, however, politicians are doubling down on denial, moving to expand oil and gas production.

House Democrats, including Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), have criticized the proposal. Indeed, McCarthy’s strategy does favor the oil industry by proposing to streamline the permitting process for domestic natural gas drilling.

“I welcome the efforts of anyone, regardless of party, who is willing to seriously tackle climate change -- but on its face, this does not look like a serious proposal,” Beyer told the Washington Post. “Most people understand that a serious climate solution requires a shift toward cleaner sources of energy, but the Republicans apparently want to take us in the opposite direction, with more dependence on dangerous, dirty energy sources.”

CNBC: Sen. Ted Cruz weighs in on Biden's response to Russia, Ukraine, US oil production, March 8, 2022.

WWO: Republicans For Change, February 4, 2021.