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How the Republican Party is waking up to the reality of climate crisis
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How the Republican Party is waking up to the reality of climate crisis

How the Republican Party is awakening to the reality of the climate crisis


After months of hard-fought negotiation, President Joe Biden passed a $1.2trn bill through Congress to transform America’s infrastructure at the start of November. Contained $80bn of climate measures, the bill forms a key part of Biden’s climate change response, alongside $555bnof measures in the more transformative $1.75trn Build Back Better Bill.

Just 13 House Republicans supported the Infrastructure Bill – and they have since faced a torrent of abuseFrom other members of the party. A growing number of Republicans now support climate change action, contrary to the climate scepticism displayed by former president Donald Trump.

Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria OcasioCortez and Biden, as well as former President Barack Obama all made an appearance. Cop26. In addition, the UN climate conference was the first time that a congressional delegation from only Republicans was present.

“I am here to show the world that Republicans also care about climate change,” John Curtis, representative for Utah’s third congressional district, told the New Statesman. “We have not been as vocal as we should be and I want to change that.” 

Curtis founded The Conservative Climate CaucusIn June 2021, with a view to urging more climate action from those on right of the political spectrum in the US. SeventyTwo-thirds of the House of Representatives’ 213 Republican members are now members. Representatives Dan Crenshaw from Texas, David McKinley from West Virginia, and Garret Graves from Louisiana were also present at Cop26. 

“Louisiana is coastal and is among the states most vulnerable to climate change in the United States,” said Graves. “Our state already has some of the fastest rates of coastal subsidenceAround the globe. With increasing storm intensity, the world is also experiencing more severe storms. Hurricane Ida hitting the area I represent this summer.” 

Data shows that extreme weather such as droughts and hurricanes is on the rise in the US. A recent survey showed that two-thirds of Americans said they are experiencing more extreme weather than ever before. surveyThe think tank Pew Research Center. 

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Utah is enjoying its longest tenure droughtCurtis said that the record is complete. “We are also seeing more forest fires, and our ski season is getting shorter. So I would say yes, we are absolutely feeling the effects of climate change.” 

Both Republican and Democrat voters are becoming more concerned about climate change. Recent analysisE3G, a UK think tank, found that the majority of voters in key battleground areas ahead of the 2022 midterm elections wanted Congress to do more on the issue. 

Despite people agreeing on the necessity of climate action, there are many opinions about what that means in practice.

Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a right-wing climate advocacy group, arranged the appearance of the Republican delegation to Cop26. “We advocate tackling climate change and clean-energy solutions, but we are Republicans, and so it is not about growing government and giving away our liberties,” said Heather Reams, CRES’s executive director. “Instead of the pendulum swing of a different president coming to power every four or eight years, we are looking for more pragmatic climate solutions that can garner bipartisan support.” 

Climate science shows that it is necessary to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 to hold global heating to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and prevent catastrophic climate change. Curtis wouldn’t say if the caucus supports net zero emissions and has not presented any policy plan. Members of the caucus also have a poor track record when it comes to voting for environmental bills, shows data from the League of Conservation Voters – Curtis has only voted in favour of 2 per centSince joining the House in 2017, there have been many environmental bills.

Utah is a major producer and exporter of coal. Offshore oil and gas are vital industries in Louisiana. Curtis Graves and Graves believe that the US can decarbonize while maintaining jobs in these industries. This assumption is contrary to the evidence provided by energy transition experts, which shows that fossil fuels are in fact a problem. largely incompatibleClimate action is essential, and coal in particular must be phased out. Carbon capture and storage technologies that ostensibly allow fossil fuels such as coal to be burned without releasing large amounts of carbon into our atmosphere remain financially unviable. without big subsidies.

“Our economy is based on fossil fuels, and so I think it is very important we don’t move forward in an emotional way that demonises traditional energy sources,” said Graves. “The future is going to not just see renewables, but ‘all of the above’, with wind and solar, as well as nuclear, hydropower and fossil fuels with technology like carbon capture and storage.”

Data shows this “all of the above” strategy is essentially what is already happening across the US, with annual renewables generation increasing 223 per cent last decade, and oil and gas production increasing 135 per cent and 67 per cent respectively thanks to the shale revolution

At the beginning of November, three Republican senators published an “American Energy, Jobs, and Climate” plan. A “realistic, achievable solution” to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2050. But this goal is still far from the net-zero holy grail. Climate Interactive, a Massachusetts-based think tank foundThe plan would likely only result in a 14 percent drop in emissions.

Nonetheless, Climate Interactive’s founder Andrew Jones believes the formation of the Conservative Climate Caucus in the House of Representatives is a positive step forward, despite the huge gap between its proposals and what needs to happen. “The science of climate change shows we must bring emissions of coal, oil and gas to zero mid-century,” said Jones. “What is politically possible in the Republican Party remains unclear, but the science is completely clear.”

[See also: America’s leaders are old. That’s a problem]


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