I’m a Young Conservative, and I Want My Party to Lead the Fight Against Climate Change

Conservatives were once America’s environmental champions. Not that long ago, Republican presidents were carrying out the Clean Air and Water Acts, creating the Environmental Protection Agency, expanding the National Park System and even initiating the country’s most authoritative report on climate change, the National Climate Assessment.

But times have changed.

Many of today’s Republican leaders stoke fear and anger by mocking the most divisive climate activists while claiming that every environmental solution is a radical one. If they’re not doing that, Republicans can often be found on the sidelines and disengaged from the issue completely.

Instead of continuing the environmental legacy they were once known for, they have ceded the fight against climate change to Democrats, putting themselves on the wrong side of history. Not a single Republican voted in 2022 for the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that is funneling hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds to red states and blue states alike for climate mitigation and resilience projects. And it has cost them: A recent working paper from the University of Colorado, Boulder, found that opinion on climate change was one of the strongest predictors of whom independents voted for in 2020, probably giving President Biden enough of an edge to tip the election in his favor. In other words, Donald Trump’s denial of climate change probably cost him the White House.

The Democratic Party has also alienated voters with calls for an immediate transition from fossil fuels and with the Green New Deal’s top-down, one-size-fits-all approach. For someone like me who grew up surrounded by farmland, the Democratic messaging on climate has felt elitist, condescending and out of touch with a large portion of America’s needs. When Gov. Gavin Newsom of California essentially forces people in his state to purchase electric vehicles by ordering that new gasoline-powered cars be banned within 15 years or Mr. Biden suggests that coal workers “learn how to program,” it can feel as though people’s day-to-day realities are completely cast aside.

The fact of the matter is this: We cannot address climate change or solve any other environmental issue without the buy-in and leadership of conservative America. And there are clear opportunities for climate action that conservatives can champion without sacrificing core values, from sustainable agriculture to nuclear energy and the onshoring of clean energy production.

In my visits to communities from Texas oil country to the South Side of Chicago to cattle ranches in Wyoming, I’ve seen how it’s possible to bridge the divide. Conservatives might have disengaged from the issues over the past several decades, but voters often tell me they’re ready to jump back into the conversation. After all, as farmers, ranchers, foresters or just people who enjoy hunting and fishing, many conservatives have a stake in the health of their environment.

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