September 21, 2020; Inside Climate News and The Guardian
New polling on behalf of the Guardian, Vice Media Group, and Covering Climate Now has found that contrary to the Republican Party establishment’s climate denialism, more than half of those registered as Republicans say climate change is a very or somewhat serious problem. Of those polled, 41 percent said they would back policies proposed by the Green New Deal, while 51 percent of Republicans support the US involvement in the Paris climate accords.
Such polling results support a Pew Research Center study that found that views on climate change among Republicans were divided along generational and gender lines. As many as 52 percent of young Republicans, ages 18 to 38, polled in November 2019 said the government was doing too little on the climate crisis, while only 31 percent of Baby Boomers said the same. The percentage among Millennials jumped to 78 percent when asked whether developing alternative energy resources should be a priority for the US.
Inside Climate News recently spoke to several young Republicans and found that many simply can’t ignore their party’s inability to tackle the climate crisis. Some are even planning to cast a “protest” vote this November to save the planet. Faced with increasing wildfires, flooding, draught, and exacerbated hurricane seasons, Greta Thunberg’s generation simply can’t afford to ignore that their immediate futures are at stake.
A young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, Jacob Abel told Inside Climate News, for example, that he’s increasingly frustrated by the lack of urgent action and leadership from the GOP on climate change, and that the “Green New Deal was actually a big catalyst for a lot of young Republicans coming forward and pushing for serious Republican solutions.”
Writing for the conservative publication the Ripon Forum, Danielle Butcher also complains about the Republican Party’s inability to retain young voters:
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It is evident that if Republicans do not take addressing climate change seriously, they are at risk of completely losing young voters. But these young voters are also looking for policy proposals that are different from those being put forth by the left. Young Republicans are looking for sustainable, common sense solutions to combat climate change. They do not want to be forced to choose between a strong economy and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Luckily, that is a false dichotomy.
Some may tell you that we sound like Democrats. That’s simply not true. Our conservative principles are sound, but we are clearly prioritizing environmental issues.
Butcher is the executive vice president at the American Conservation Coalition, an environmental organization for conservative youth. They also conducted a poll among voters aged 18–35 and found 77 percent of right-leaning respondents see climate change as important and that such concerns will impact how they vote in November’s elections. Overall, 72 percent of those polled said that they would be “more likely to vote for Republican candidates in 2020 who accept that climate change is real.”
And while the Republican Convention right out ignored the climate crisis, they simply can’t block the scorching sun with a thumb. According to the Scientific American, since Trump came to power:
- More than 3,000 people in the US have died in natural catastrophes, including victims from Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Harvey, and California wildfires.
- The last four years have been the hottest since record-keeping began in the 1860s.
- The coronavirus pandemic, largely considered to be a climate pandemic, has claimed over 200,000 lives.
- Oil companies continue to suffer economic downfall amid growing concerns about climate change. (Last month, the Dow Jones announced it would drop ExxonMobil from the blue chip stock index after a century of it being listed.)
The United States is set to exit the Paris climate agreement on November 4, or 41 days from today, which would mean rejecting decades of negotiations by 197 nations that agreed to voluntarily curb greenhouse emissions. Back in 2017, Republican Senators and conservative think tanks urged Trump to withdraw from the Paris accords. Climate denialism has long been a Republican problem. Can it reform in time to meet young voters’ concerns? We won’t hold our breath.—Sofia Jarrin-Thomas