I was honored to join the American Conservation Coalition’s second annual summit last week in Salt Lake City, Utah. While the line-up of speakers was impressive – nuclear expert and Miss America 2023 Grace Stanke, celebrity chef Andrew Gruel, commentator Konstantin Kisis, Liberty Energy CEO Chris Wright, and more – the highlight was meeting many of the 300 mostly young adults who traveled from around the country to support one another in their shared commitment to environmental stewardship.
Two themes stood out at the gathering. First, the most effective type of climate action is bottom-up rather than top-down. Second, activists are looking to engage and make a difference in ways that don’t involve climate radicalism (i.e. throwing soup on paintings and gluing themselves to asphalt to block traffic). ACC is modeling that type of constructive activism through activities like clean-up days, hikes, tree plantings and more.
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During a session I moderated at the ACC summit with leading congressional staff and activists, I urged the attendees to not underestimate the strength of their voice and capacity to influence public policy. Despite its dysfunctions, our system is remarkably open to everyone with the passion and drive to make their voice heard.
Fortunately, a growing number of elected officials are eager to partner with groups like ACC, C3 Solutions and others who are making the case that economic freedom, individual freedom and bottom-up volunteerism and entrepreneurship are foundational to making lasting change.
Several members of the Conservative Climate Caucus (now one of the largest caucuses in Congress) attended the summit, including U.S. Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), who said, “I think this is very fundamentally important for conservatives to be able to articulate that we care deeply about this earth, we care deeply about leaving it better than we found it. What’s been missing in the past is we’ve been very good at telling everybody what we don’t like, and we’ve not been so good at telling people what we would like to do.”
As Curtis and other members know, younger voters in particular want elected officials to define what they are for, not just what they are against. Polling by our sister organization, C3 Action as well as ACC and others, consistently shows that younger Americans, including conservatives, want elected officials to take action to address climate change.
The C3 Action poll found that two-thirds of voters in the key swing states of Arizona, Georgia and Michigan are more likely to support candidates who prioritize climate solutions. The ACC poll found that voters are more likely to support candidates who advocated for “immediate action on climate” by a 2 to 1 ratio. But among voters under 30, the ratio was 4 to 1. ACC also found that Democrats held an 11-point advantage over Republicans when respondents were asked “which party do you trust more to address climate change?”
The ACC Summit shows that a movement of people who support bottom-up and durable climate solutions is real and growing. We’re looking forward to covering that movement in the months and years ahead.