Forget Permafrost. Has the GOP Reached Climate Tipping point?

November 6, 2019

Too late.

Inhofe’s snowball will forever be the legacy of the Republican Party.

E&E News:

Top House Republicans are talking through how to proceed with their own climate change legislation, and it could be the moment conservative climate advocacy organizations have been waiting for.

But while party leaders have been eyeing shifting political winds for months now, publishing climate-friendly op-eds and burnishing what they view as green credentials from the last Congress, it remains to be seen how far they’ll be willing to go.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made waves over the weekend, when he toldthe Washington Examiner the GOP is planning to introduce a series of free-market bills to counter the Green New Deal.

In light of polling that shows younger voters care about climate, the GOP risks alienating a big chunk of voters in their late 20s.

“We need to have an open discussion about what should the party look like 20 years from now, and we should be a little nervous,” McCarthy said, according to the Examiner. “We have to do something different than we’ve done.”

Some conservatives advocating on the issue took the comments as a deeply meaningful sign: They believe McCarthy has seen the polling they’ve been conducting for years and is now officially signaling a new direction for the party.

Florida Rep. Francis Rooney, the most active House Republican on climate, said McCarthy has reached out to him with ideas for legislation, which would likely involve advancing carbon capture and sequestration, but not a price on carbon.

“I was excited he mentioned these ideas he’s got,” Rooney told E&E News. “He does feel that the information that we’ve all been giving him about what people think about it, and how concerned they are about some of these climate change issues, is important, and I think he’s got some good ideas.”

In a lengthy email sent out to reporters this week, Alex Flint, executive director of Alliance for Market Solutions, called McCarthy’s comments a “tipping point” and declared it “the moment Republican climate change denialism ended.”

“A tipping point is not the moment at which all Republicans acknowledge climate change,” Flint said in an interview. “It’s the moment at which the party as a whole realizes it has to address climate change. There will probably always be some deniers, but they no longer represent the party.”

McCarthy’s worries about young voters, in particular, are borne out in polling both public and private. Flint’s group and similar organizations, such as Citizens For Responsible Energy Solutions and the American Conservation Coalition, have been handing out surveys to Republicans that show younger voters increasingly see climate change as a top issue.

Polling from earlier this year prepared for the Republican National Committee by Public Opinion Strategies said young voters see climate change as their most important issue, a potentially important opinion gap for the GOP.

Rooney said he knows McCarthy has seen the numbers because Rooney has been passing all the climate polling data he can get his hands on up the leadership ladder.

It’s also not the first time House GOP leaders have signaled their direction on climate.

Three top Energy and Commerce Republicans — Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon and Reps. John Shimkus of Illinois and Fred Upton of Michigan — penned an op-ed back in February arguing Republicans have better answers on climate change.

From the first hearing this year, Republicans on E&C took that attitude to the committee dais and now rarely espouse climate-skeptical positions (E&E Daily, March 7).

And notably, McCarthy tapped Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), who has never openly denied climate science, to lead the GOP on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, though he also passed over Rooney, who had publicly expressed interest.

Graves has led the party’s climate messaging on the House side this year. He said he’s spoken with McCarthy “many times” and is in talks about climate with Walden on Energy and Commerce and with the Agriculture Committee.

While Graves declined to say whether he’s actively working with leadership on legislation, he said there are opportunities to work on solutions in the agriculture sector and potentially to expand on the 45Q tax credit for carbon capture.

Sequestering carbon and managing climate change in the agriculture sector is a matter of particular interest for Graves and other Republicans on his panel, including at a select committee hearing on agriculture yesterday.

But ultimately, Graves said Republicans are focused on “how to build on the successes that we’ve had,” as opposed to the big, structural change Democrats are looking for to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got consensus on ideas, and certainly I’d be hopeful that that would be bipartisan,” Graves said.

But the signs of a shift come as right-leaning climate change activists have been experiencing, at best, a mixed bag in their attempts to convince the GOP to endorse policies to reduce emissions and prioritize the issue.

Sizing up Republicans and President Trump as the 2020 election approaches, leaders in what they’ve dubbed the “eco-right” told E&E News the party is moving in their direction, but it’s a slow roll.

“There are certain Republicans that I feel like have done a great job on this issue and have actually contributed more to the climate change conversation than those on the left,” said Benji Backer, president of the American Conservation Coalition.

“But I also think that there are many who have made it harder and have been focused solely on climate denial and/or have not done anything for the issue,” he said.

Backer is still in college and has focused his group particularly on young conservative voters. He, and other conservative climate activists, argue the GOP will lose their generation if politicians don’t start taking climate and the environment more seriously. It’s a message Backer’s organization and its allies have long been pushing.

“It’s got to change for the sake of the environment, and it’s got to change for the sake of the future of the conservative movement,” Backer said. “This party of climate denial and ‘environment last’ needs to shift. Otherwise the Republican Party won’t survive.”


3 Responses to “Forget Permafrost. Has the GOP Reached Climate Tipping point?”

  1. mboli Says:

    That would be nice!
    On the other hand….
    In the House the Climate Solutions Caucus gave up on having a balanced membership. There aren’t enough Republicans who want to be associated with addressing climate change.
    And some of the Republicans who join are simply using it as greenwashing. Take Climate Solutions Caucus member Peter King from NY, for example. He gets a lifetime 17% from from the League of Conservation Voters. It was 29% last year, but he voted wrong on every single climate-related bill. Of which there were many.
    So the Climate Solutions Caucus contains the mere 20-odd Republican Reps who are willing to profess being interested in climate solutions. And some of them are like Peter King, who don’t mean it.
    Rooney is the co-chair of the CCS. You’d think he would know what is going on.
    The “tipping point,” “moment at which the party as a whole realizes it has to address climate change” has not happened.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      I offer some corrections: It’s the Climate Solutions Prevention Caucus, a bipartisan group whose purpose is to hoodwink the rank and file members of both parties. ALL the Republicans were and are in it for the green shower they need every time they touch a Republican, including themselves. Unfortunately, most of the Democrats need one, too.

      We have to view rankings like LCV’s, based on votes in the US House of Ill Repute, with some (OK, a LOT) of suspicion. Discount all the votes for weak, manipulative, weak, deceptive, weak bills and compare the issues that come up with the ones that don’t:

      The Green New Deal;
      The necessary move to nationalize and shut down all fossil fuel, agro-chemical and banking corporations;
      The need to build a resilient, federally-owned and -run national smart grid and coordinate and build enough efficiency and clean safe renewable energy into it to provide all the energy the US people need;
      Vastly strengthening the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, wilderness protection, and other good ideas from the past;
      Reducing heavy metal, pesticide, and other poisoning to virtually zero by whatever means are needed; instituting the Precautionary Principle as the standard for all actions;
      Building an affordable-for-all state of the art, renewable electric national rail and high speed rail network, hooked into RE mass transit systems for every city and town, building a fleet of ultra-low to no-carbon cargo and passenger ships, and then eliminating most private vehicles and most flying.

      Since doing real things for nature and humanity never come up in either (torture) chamber, all ratings are artificially skewed and inflated. In fact, almost all Republicans deserve a ranking of between 0 and 3% and most Congressional Democrats don’t deserve much better.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        And PS
        “There aren’t enough Republicans who want to be associated with addressing climate change.” isn’t quite on the money. “There aren’t even enough Republicans who want to be associated with a fake group not addressing climate change” would be more accurate. To get reelected, they feel compelled to make it perfectly clear they’d have nothing whatsoever to do with anything addressing—or even pretending to address—climate catastrophe.

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