Young Republicans Can Save the World

As we watch the 2020 Democratic hopefuls take audience questions and respond to CNN journalists, we can expect to hear about the New Green Deal on Climate and the Environment, which Democrats have positioned as the hallmark of a progressive democratic agenda and a litmus test for the 2020 Presidential race. The tone is different amongst Republicans, who define it as the scourge of socialism and the excess of big government.

But for all the feverish attention, enthusiasm and rebuke this new wave of democratic activism has engendered, it is not just the Democrats who will determine our environmental fate. It is young Republicans who can save the world from climate change.

The US has been locked in a quagmire of politics around climate change for decades. Is it real or not, what can we do about it, and how much it will cost? The decision to act on the threat of climate change has been defined as a choice between the environment and jobs, regulation or free markets, Republicans or Democrats.

The fact that the most outspoken proponents of tackling climate change have come from high ranking democrats such as Al Gore has only deepened the resolve of establishment Republicans to double down on their denial of climate change. Even after the most ardent climate deniers of the past such as Exxon-Mobile and other energy giants have publicly acknowledged that global warming is a reality, Republicans in the Congress and the White House continue to refer to climate change a “hoax”.

So — much like their differences on social issues such as abortion LGBTQ rights and immigration — will the Republican vs. Democrat political divide keep Americans from addressing a scientific issue based on one’s political affiliation? While the answer until now has been yes, there is a glimmer of hope that we are moving closer together and it is coming from an interesting source: young Republicans.

Addressing climate change may become a generational divide versus a political one. Unlike their parents, today’s young republicans do not have the luxury to make climate change a partisan issue. They are increasingly realizing that they have more at stake in the issue of a warming environment than the decision-makers currently in power.

Baby Boomer and Gen X Republicans will not bear the brunt of the consequences if they bet wrong on climate change, while Millennials in their 20s and 30s and the teenage Gen Z will undoubtedly pay the price. In thirty years, when we know whether the scientific predictions are right or not, it will be too late to avoid many of its consequences.

The Millennials and Gen Z will then be in their 40s, 50s and 60s and running the world. It is this generation who will have to cope with the pain and suffering that will accompany a more hostile and volatile environment. It is this generation who will see worse coming down the line for their children.

Young Republicans, whether city dwellers or part of the rural American heartland, are beginning to make different decisions than their current leaders about how climate change could impact their way of life. They are breaking away from their parents’ beliefs and shifting the political dynamic on climate change, much like the Gen X’rs did on LGBTQ rights. For the most pragmatic, it is not a question of party loyalty, but the simple view that action on climate change is an insurance policy. For others, it is based on the conservative values of resource conservation and stewardship of the earth.

Whatever is behind this emerging perspective, Young Republicans are making their views known. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center’s annual survey on the environment, 59 percent of millennial Republicans say that climate change is having “at least some effect on the United States,” and 47 percent say the government is doing too little to “reduce effects of climate change.” This compares to only 48 percent of Boomer Republicans that acknowledge climate impacts and 27 percent who feel the government is doing too little.

Conservative groups, such as Students for Carbon Dividends, a bipartisan group calling for national legislation to fight climate change, are cropping up on college campuses. Even younger Republicans are becoming activists in a growing movement of secondary school students participating in school walk outs for climate change.

It’s clear that as sea levels rise, the political tides are changing too. Young Republicans will break the partisan divide on climate change, eliminating the longstanding stalemate on the issue. As hurricanes like Dorian become more common, young Republicans will be the movement that makes the difference.

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