As Ice Melts, GOP Change on Climate is Glacial

July 23, 2018


“Glacial” used to mean changes that took place imperceptibly over long periods of time.
That no longer applies to the natural world, but it does describe Republican’s ability to catch up with science.


Climate change is starting to become a political worry for some Republicans.

The big picture: For years, Republicans could ignore the issue or outright question mainstream climate science without political worry. That’s starting to change. Some congressional Republicans are beginning to find it in their political interest to at least acknowledge climate change and oppose efforts to weaken existing policies.

The subtle but significant shift is fueled by disparate factors, including a stronger economy and President Trump’s dismissive policies on climate.

“Moderate Republicans running this cycle are going to look for places to distance themselves in some places and appeal somehow to the middle, and [climate] is a fairly safe issue to do so.”
— Adrian Gray, Republican pollster

Unlike the backlash Republicans face for disagreeing with Trump on many issues, Gray says his polling shows that most Republican voters don’t penalize their lawmakers for acknowledging climate change is real and a problem, even though Trump openly mocks it.

This distinction comes despite the fact polling shows climate change remains a low priority for most voters, said Gray, who has done work for environmental groups.

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo embodies the moderate GOP mold considered key to Republicans keeping control of the House. He represents the tip of Florida, a swing district whose residents regularly experience rising sea levels, one of the clearest and most present impacts of climate change.

  • Climate change is a top priority for Curbelo, who has regularly criticized Trump on several issues.
  • He’s introducing legislation today that taxes carbon emissions, with at least one fellow Republican, Curbelo said.
  • He’s a co-founder of a bipartisan House caucus that acknowledges climate change.

Inside Climate News:

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution denouncing the idea of a U.S. carbon tax as detrimental to the economy, one week before a Republican-sponsored bill to create a carbon fee is set to be introduced.

It was a win for a coalition of groups funded by the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers and other wealthy, right-wing opponents of climate action. And it revealed weak resolve for bucking GOP leadership among most of the 43 Republican members of the Climate Solutions Caucus.

If the bipartisan caucus had held firm, the resolution would have been handily defeated.

Instead, only six Republicans—four of them caucus members, including Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who plans to unveil the carbon fee measure next week—joined most Democrats in opposing the resolution. Seven Democrats voted with the GOP.

The 229-180 vote marked a slight erosion in the GOP wall of opposition to climate action. In 2016, an identical measure passed the House 237-163with no Republicans opposed. Such resolutions are meant to express the views of the chamber and have no real-world impact, but with a different Congress in place now, carbon tax foes wanted a new vote.

Axios again:

Leading up to last week’s vote on the anti-carbon tax resolution, some Republicans felt “angst” about it, according to a senior GOP aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid about inner party workings.

After the vote, the aide expressed surprise at the number of Republicans who opposed the resolution: six, including five who are running for reelection. While objectively small, it’s still a notable change from the unanimous GOP backing in a near identical vote two years ago.

Increasingly, Republicans are voting against opposing moves on climate policy — a political double negative. Last July, dozens of House Republicans voted to defeat an amendment that would have blocked a Defense Department study of climate change.

This political shift is by no means universal, and it isn’t leading to broad support for policies. It’s one thing to acknowledge climate change is real, but it’s another, big step to put forward policies, and so far Curbelo is an outlier.

GOP Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and David McKinley of West Virginia sponsored last week’s anti-carbon tax resolution for compelling reasons: they represent fossil-fuel constituents who would get hit hardest by a tax on carbon emitted from oil, natural gas and coal.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia running for reelection this year, told me last week he would still support today an advertisement he ran in 2010 shooting climate-change legislation with a gun.

One former congressional Republican who got voted out largely for his vote in support of that bill — Bob Inglis of South Carolina — says times are changing, albeit slowly.

“That was the darkest days of the recession, the reddest district in the reddest state in the nation,” Inglis said. “So things are turning, but they haven’t turned completely yet.”


Eleven teams participated in a recent Stanford Energy Modeling Forum (EMF) project, examining the economic and environmental impacts of a carbon tax. The studies included “revenue recycling,” in which the funds generated from a carbon tax are returned to taxpayers either through regular household rebate checks (similar to the Citizens’ Climate Lobby [CCL] and Climate Leadership Council [CLC] proposals) or by offsetting income taxes (similar to the approach in British Columbia).

Among the eleven modeling teams the key findings were consistent. First, a carbon tax is effective at reducing carbon pollution, although the structure of the tax (the price and the rate at which it rises) are important. Second, this type of revenue-neutral carbon tax would have a very modest impact on the economy in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). In all likelihood it would slightly slow economic growth, but by an amount that would be more than offset by the benefits of cutting pollution and slowing global warming.

2 Responses to “As Ice Melts, GOP Change on Climate is Glacial”

  1. mboli Says:

    My Rep. Peter Roskam (IL-6) was one of the perfidious Republicans. He joined the Climate Solutions Caucus two months ago. He puts it on his campaign literature.
    And then he voted against his own caucus. He votes for the resolution disapproving of a carbon tax, just before the Republican caucus co-chair introduces a bill to substitute a carbon tax for a gas tax.
    Roskam joining the Climate Solutions Caucus is a fraud. He has been consistent in his support for Liberty! Free the Greenhouse Gasses!

    • Abel Adamski Says:

      Get the word around in his constituency focusing on the fraudulent aspect, his word or commitment cannot be trusted

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