Conservative climate activists find key allies in GOP

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Environmental activists who are young and conservative have a message for Republicans in Washington who question the science behind climate change or feel the issue does not deserve attention: get with the program or get out of the way.
 
Some of the party’s most conservative members agree.

These Republicans say the GOP should be doing more to counter Democrats’ far-reaching environmental proposals by acknowledging the issue and bringing more politically “pragmatic” climate policies to the forefront of their conservative agenda.
 
“It’s important for the GOP to have sensible stances on all issues. I tend to gravitate toward things I think [Republicans] are weak on: energy, climate, health care,” Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas told The Washington Times. “That’s why I work on these particular things.”

The conservative lawmaker, who’s been criticized by Republican voters for being one of the most vocal advocates in his party on climate change, was among several GOP lawmakers and influential conservative figures who spoke Friday at a summit promoting right-leaning environmental policies.

Hosted by the American Conservation Coalition, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group that targets young conservatives, the event featured Republican climate activists from across the country.

They advocated for the party to take more aggressive action to combat climate change, a stance that is crucial for the GOP to win over younger generations who believe the issue should be a higher priority than those who came before them.
 
“I’m glad we no longer have members of Congress or senators who go into their freezer and get a snowball and bring it onto the House floor. That’s not the narrative we need, those are not the images we need,” said Rep. Peter Meijer, Michigan Republican. “This is a serious issue that we need to take seriously.”

Mr. Meijer appeared to be taking a shot at Sen. James Inhofe, who in 2015 brought a snowball from outside onto the Senate floor as evidence the Earth was not warming, in what is now an infamous moment. The Oklahoma Republican plans to retire when the current session of Congress ends in January.
 
Elaine Chao, who served as transportation secretary under former President Donald Trump and is the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, encouraged the young attendees to play an influential role in forcing the GOP to “return to our conservative roots.”

“We conservatives have a strong and proud history in conservation, and we need to get that out and amplify that more,” Ms. Chao said in a brief interview.

For their part, GOP leaders in Congress realize they must do more to capture younger climate-conscientious voters.
 
As part of that initiative — and in an effort to win over frustrated Americans facing the highest inflation in four decades and record gas prices — House Republicans have rolled out a multipronged energy and climate agenda ahead of the midterm elections. It includes conserving natural resources, permitting reform for energy projects, increased critical mineral mining and more domestic energy production of all forms, including oil and natural gas.

The inclusion of more fossil fuel production prompted Democratic criticism that Republicans do not truly care about addressing climate change.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, is facing a difficult juggling act, said Benji Backer, founder and president of the American Conservation Coalition.

“It’s a tough place to balance, because if you’re Leader McCarthy, you have members of your caucus who don’t believe in climate change, ones who want to engage but are not going to go far and you have some who want to push pretty hard,” Mr. Backer said. “You have young people who are engaged and energized giving them positive feedback when they do the right thing and pushing them when they haven’t been.”

Among the major policy themes promoted at the conservative summit was the need to balance the affordability and national security aspects of transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewables. Avenues to achieve this included discussions on nuclear and hydropower, reversing deforestation, carbon-capture technologies and deregulation to promote energy innovation.

Reducing the country’s dependency on fossil fuels won’t be accomplished overnight, nor does it need to be, Republicans argued. They disagree with various climate reports that have concluded the Earth is nearing a point of irreversible damage caused by a hotter planet that will give rise to deadlier  natural disasters.

Democrats often point to such findings when pushing for sweeping climate measures or the need to cut greenhouse gas pollution in half by 2030, which is President Biden’s emission target.
 
“We can’t give everybody an electric vehicle in the United States and solve global climate emissions,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman, Arkansas Republican. “If we want to solve the problem, we’ve got to do it through innovation, because the demand for energy has not gone away, and it’s not going away.”

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