Perspective: Republicans are taking action on climate change. Why are Democrats ignoring them?
A smart initiative by House leaders could enable meaningful progress and help the GOP in November
Earlier this month, leading Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives began to unveil a vision for climate action. This is remarkable; just a few short years ago, mainstream Republican leaders pushing for climate action would have been unimaginable.
While many of the policy details are yet to be released, this announcement should be heralded as historic progress. Not only does the initiative — led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, and Rep. Garret Graves, R-La. — acknowledge the human impact on climate change and a desire to find swift solutions, but it focuses on areas of policy that are actionable right now, in a time of high energy prices and tiring political polarization.
There’s a lot to be hopeful about, especially since the six-pillar plan focuses heavily on areas of bipartisan agreement: innovation, conservation, resiliency, unlocking American resources, competing with China and Russia, and building solutions in America. Last week’s announcement focused solely on the “unlocking American resources” pillar — and the task force will expand on the additional pillars in the months to come.
Most importantly, by releasing a climate plan, the House Republicans have signaled to the American people that climate will be a priority if they retake the House in November’s election. This marks an important shift in history — where climate action will now happen regardless of which political party has power. That fact shouldn’t be ignored by the media, nor younger generations.
While two-thirds of Americans believe that the government should do more on climate change, according to Pew Research Center, there’s still a partisan divide on the issue, which has led to the misconception that all Republicans are climate-change deniers.
While Democrats are three times more likely than Republicans to say that climate change should be one of the nation’s top priorities, polls show that a majority of Republicans want to see the government take action on climate change, and younger Republicans — especially those between the ages of 18 and 39 — are especially concerned about climate change and solutions.
As one of those young conservatives seeking climate action, I’ll be the first to admit that the next few months are crucial for the Republican initiative. For young voters, the ambition of the full set of policy ideas — as well as their prioritization in the GOP’s post-midterm agenda — matter immensely.
Yet regardless of how comprehensive this pendulum-shifting plan ultimately ends up being, the reaction thus far from Democrats and the media overall has been disappointing.
For years, Republicans have been blasted by the press and Democrats for not being engaged with climate issues. Being ignored when putting forth a plan is hardly motivation to do more.
The fact is, we need bipartisan support for climate solutions. The majority of Americans favor the United States going carbon neutral by 2050; that, and other points of agreement should lead our national conversation.
That doesn’t mean that Republicans and Democrats will agree on every solution. But when Democrats immediately assume bad faith and ignore Republicans as they are taking such a significant step toward climate action, the silence sets us back — just at the time we could be taking steps forward.
Benji Backer is the president and founder of the American Conservation Coalition.