Are House Republicans the Climate’s Best Hope?
Given the Trump administration’s hostile stance on climate change and attack on crucial Obama era climate regulations you would be excused for thinking that bipartisan climate action in Washington is a far off fantasy. And yet, quietly, the foundation is being laid for long-term solutions.
Last week, 17 Republican members of the House of Representative’s, hailing from Florida, Utah and eight other states, introduced a Republican Climate Change Resolution, declaring their commitment, “ to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates.” This is clearly not the party line that we’re hearing from the White House, but it echoes other announcements from Republican groups regarding climate change that are becoming both stronger and more frequent.
Recently, the Climate Solutions Caucus, a group in the House created to explore policy options that address climate change, and comprised of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, announced their 30th member. Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), co-chair of the caucus, characterized new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent remarks on carbon dioxide emissions not being a primary contributor to climate change as “reckless and unacceptable.” Several weeks earlier, a group of well-respected former Republican administration officials pitched a national carbon tax to the White House. Meanwhile, a bipartisan coalition of governors from Kansas, Arkansas and a 18 other states sent a letter to President Trump urging him to promote and expand the development of wind and solar energy.
These actions illustrate an encouraging trend that Republicans recognize the problem climate change presents, and understand that if they aren’t at the table on the issue, they’ll eventually pay the price. The facts on the ground are undeniable, and voters want answers and action from their elected officials, as shown in poll after poll. Increasing pressure from both the public and private sector – 1,000 companies took out a full-page ad in Politico last week calling for climate action - is forcing Republicans, especially those in districts seeing the devastating effects of climate change firsthand, to confront the issue.
The 17 Republicans who introduced the resolution split dramatically with many members of their party on climate change, and they have shown bold leadership for recognizing the consequences of inaction in this divided political landscape.
While we don’t expect immediate action from this group in terms of legislation, it sends the message that building long term support for climate policy is a priority for a significant subset of House Republicans. Seventeen may not sound like much, but, for reference, perhaps the most well know group in the House, the Freedom Caucus, has just 30 members and has the votes to negate the Republican majority. If the resolution continues to grow, as we expect it will, it presents the possibility of bipartisan resistance to the Trump assault on environmental regulations that will damage local districts just as a warming climate and more volatile weather are already doing. We’ve seen Republicans speak out on climate change, now we expect that they will back those words up with their votes in Congress. That will be the true test of this resolution.
Sam Williams works on Ceres federal policy program