I recently shot clay pigeons alongside College Republican leaders, Utah Rep. John Curtis and conservative voters from across the state. The evening was everything you could hope for in a trapshoot: beautiful spring weather, a view of Utah County’s pristine farmland and familiar faces from friends across the conservative movement. The reason for our gathering?

Talking about the environment. 

That may sound surprising to some. But as the Western region chair of Young Republicans and chair emeritus of the Utah Federation of College Republicans, I can tell you without reservation that conservatives must play offense on this issue.

For decades, progressive Democrats from urban districts on the coasts have driven environmental politics. The dominant ideologies and policies of the environmental movement have leaned decisively to the left, making political engagement on this topic unpalatable for many Republicans. Conservatives tend to oppose measures that would limit individual liberties, spend recklessly, weaken U.S. foreign policy or increase the size of government.

Despite the apparent ideological divide among our parents’ generation, the climate challenge is an important issue for young voters, including young Republicans. Republican youth are increasingly concerned about climate change, and a study from Luntz Global reports that conservatives realize the party risks losing the next generation over this issue. Conservative readers likely know several young people who have left the Republican Party over environmental issues. 

As someone who is active in politics on college campuses, I can tell you this does not have to be the case. Many young people recognize the problems with the Green New Deal and similar liberal policy initiatives, and they are hungry for compelling conservative alternatives. There is an appetite among young Republicans for practical solutions that ensure both a clean environment and a strong economy. 

Enter Congressman Curtis, stage right.

Utah congressman explains why fighting climate change must be a conservative cause

In 2021, Curtis founded the Conservative Climate Caucus to push back against the left’s monopoly over this issue. This initiative provides a venue for Republicans to address the topic of climate change with capitalism and free-market solutions, and it has garnered widespread support from Republicans across Congress. One third of all Republicans in the House of Representatives — including Utah Reps. Chris Stewart, Blake Moore and Burgess Owens — have already joined the caucus, making it the second largest in the House. 

The congressman has also been outspoken on the need to address offshore emissions from countries like China, who have continued to produce unprecedented amounts of pollution with very little regard for the environment or human rights. He has spoken strongly about the need for U.S. oil — which is cleaner than oil from other countries — to displace Russian oil in international markets

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By contrast, environmental policy on the left is leading America to become more dependent on autocrats and dictators to meet our energy needs. To add insult to injury, progressive climate activists have openly called for the U.S. to acquiesce to the Chinese Communist Party in the name of climate. 

This juxtaposition highlights to young voters that the future they hope for is more likely to happen with the GOP than with the Green New Deal. And it shows how conservatives can enter the environmental debate — and win.

To build and retain the next generation of Republicans, it is long past time for conservatives to play offense on this issue. Advancing conservative solutions not only unleashes the power of capitalism and delivers better results. It also empowers young conservatives to fight back with new climate solutions. 

On so many fronts, GOP leadership on this topic is good for the environment, the economy and for Utah families. Curtis, in tandem with the rest of the Utah delegation, is right to be leading this timely effort.

Grayson Massey is the Western region chair for Young Republicans, an organization that represents young conservative professionals from across the United States.