For decades, climate change has been a politically charged issue in American political discourse. Candidates and office holders often had to carefully navigate the science of climate change with alternative considerations, such as their local economy, jobs, and political affiliation of their constituents. However, what was once a wedge issue may slowly be shifting to a political winner for leaders in both political parties. This can be attributed to three recent developments:
- Global outliers: Climate change deniers, who are overwhelmingly members of the Republican party, are the only major political party in the world that denies the science of climate change. This position is becoming increasingly tenuous, as major constituencies within the party are expressing their concern about a changing climate.
- Conservative interests: Major constituencies and voting blocks within the Republican party once denied anthropogenic climate change, or the need to address a changing climate. This has drastically shifted, as business, religious, and local republican leaders begin to express their concern with climate uncertainty and the need for environmental stewardship.
- Changing constituents: Within the Republican Party, voters are shedding their doubt about climate change. They are more accepting of the science, more convinced that the causes are anthropogenic, and more supportive of taking measures to find solutions.
The major hurdles to advancing climate solutions are not economic, they are not due to technology, and they are not about jobs. They are political. As both parties come to accept climate science, real solutions become attainable. To find out how implementing climate action in your community can be actualized, check out the resources at Path to Positive Communities.
The tide is finally turning. In last night’s third Republican debates, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and former New York Governor George Pataki both acknowledged the scientific consensus that climate change is real and linked to human activities.
These candidates participated in the “undercard” debate of four before the longer debate with the remaining 10 Republican hopefuls. But their comments are a major step in breaking the link between a conservative worldview and climate skepticism.
Increasing commentary, both partisan and nonpartisan, is making it clear that the conservative position of denying climate change is untenable. The tide of the scientific evidence is too great to hold back, and the longer the Republican Party denies the existence of the issue, the longer it will be excluded from the discussion over what to do about it.
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