Conservatives are engaging on climate change like never before. Last June, under the leadership of Rep. John Curtis, House Republicans founded the Conservative Climate Caucus, which is now one of the largest caucuses in Congress. In November, a delegation of GOP lawmakers attended the UN Climate Summit, and my organization – the American Conservation Coalition – organized the first-ever Global Conservative Climate Summit. In terms of legislation, Republicans have been crucially involved in important climate and conservation bills in the last few years, from the Energy Act of 2020 to the Great American Outdoors Act and the Growing Climate Solutions Act. Increasingly, conservatives are comfortable vocalizing the need to tackle climate change and the new Republican Climate Plan is a major step in offering real solutions.
Ahead of this year’s midterm elections, House Republicans are setting out to do exactly that. Last month, the Energy, Climate & Conservation Task Force, launched by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and spearheaded by Rep. Garret Graves, released a new agenda to tackle climate change. Colloquially dubbed the “Republican climate plan,” it consists of six key issue areas that are being rolled out over the course of this summer.
This is encouraging for anyone concerned about climate change. But, more importantly, this Republican climate plan comes at a time when pragmatic, common-sense climate action is increasingly urgent. Indeed, there are three main reasons their plan is needed now more than ever.
First, the science is increasingly evident that we must reduce emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The IPCC’s most recent climate report uses more confident language than in any of its previous reports. We now know, with a higher degree of certainty, that human activities are contributing to global warming, and that increasing temperatures will raise sea levels and increase extreme weather events, droughts, and flooding. While the report also rejects climate alarmism, it is unequivocal that we must immediately reduce emissions.
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Second, climate change is an important electoral issue. More than 70% of Americans believe in climate change and believe that it will harm future generations. Last election, two-thirds of all voters and a majority of Republicans said that climate change was important to their vote. However, when asked which party they thought would do a better job addressing the issue, 54% of voters said Democrats and only 22% said Republicans. Most importantly, voters want Republicans to engage on the issue. While only 39% of young people believe that Republicans do care, 73% say that Republicans should care.
There is a significant opportunity here for climate-minded Republicans. Three-quarters of Americans are unhappy with the direction our country is headed, and two-thirds of the population believe we are not doing enough to address the problem. Moreover, most Americans are skeptical of extreme Democratic proposals. For example, 68% would be unwilling to pay $10 more a month on their electric bill to address climate change, let alone foot the bill for a $100 trillion Green New Deal.
This brings me to the third reason. Americans are desperate for real solutions. Most want common-sense solutions that any conservative can get on board with – 90% favor planting trees, 84% support investing in carbon capture technology, and up to 80% want to prioritize clean energy sources. As high inflation and historic gas prices are hitting American families hard, it is clear that our climate and energy policies have failed both the planet and the American people. From shutting down nuclear plants to making it near-impossible to build large clean energy infrastructure projects, to relying on countries like Russia and China for our energy needs, the prevailing climate orthodoxy of the last few decades has shown itself incapable of tackling this enormous challenge.
The Republican climate plan offers a compelling alternative. It talks about clean energy innovation, natural climate solutions, holding China accountable, making it easier to build in America, and protecting our communities. It prioritizes tangible solutions over empty rhetoric and seeks to empower the American people first and foremost.
Ultimately, the new Republican climate plan is not just welcome – it is much-needed. The science is clearer than ever before that we must act rapidly to reduce global emissions. The American people are also clearer than ever that they want to see real, common-sense action on this issue, rather than the failed policies that have led to our current woes. With this new agenda, conservatives have an opportunity to drastically reform the debate around climate change and usher in an era of real action. We shouldn’t squander it.
Christopher Barnard is the national policy director at the American Conservation Coalition (ACC). Follow him on Twitter @ChrisBarnardDL.