Conservative faction pushes to build own climate movement
WASHINGTON – Prior to becoming a climate activist in his freshman year at college, Benji Backer spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, wrote for right-wing sites such as TownHall and RedState, and was made a name as a conservative television commentator. .
But like many other young people, he was worried about climate change and saw no place in the conservative movement, which mostly ignores or denies climate change, or in the environmental movement, in which big institutes like the Sierra Club tend to align with Democrats.
“We want to stick a pole in the sand to say that this is an issue that the Conservatives can and must lead,” he said. “There is absolutely no way to a future without emissions, without climate change without bipartisanship – and anyone who doesn’t accept this is not taking it seriously.”
The group has more than 220 branches, many of which are on college campuses, with thousands of grassroots members and connections on Capitol Hill.
The June 5 rally in Miami, a city that could end up underwater if the sea level continues to rise, will feature like-minded Republicans, such as former Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who has integrated climate adaptation throughout the city’s long-term planning.
“It is no longer a question of the environment in relation to the economy; the environment is the economy, ”Suarez said. “We hope to serve as a model for how conservative policies can protect the environment, invest in the future, and meet the challenges of climate change.”
Backer and others say the partisan climate divide is starting to narrow as people feel the effects of global warming and thanks to a growing generation of Millennial and Gen Z voters who are much more likely than older Republicans to say that man-made climate change is real and the government must do more about that.
Outside of the left, many who care about the environment are disheartened by what they see as the hector’s rhetoric from climate activists, Backer said.
“You have all these groups on the left, then no groups on the right. This is the market gap that we are adjusting to, ”he said. “We are truly the first and only popular movement in this space.”
Focusing on more optimistic innovation messages and local solutions can attract new people, he said, citing billionaire Elon Musk as an example of someone being rewarded in the market while reducing carbon emissions. by popularizing electric vehicles.
In rural America, there is a long history of conservation among hunters and fishermen, dating back to former President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican sportsman who founded the national park system, who now feels alienated from the culture of the environmentalism and its often abstract goals.
“There are so many areas of this country that could be imported if you could just take care of it in their backyard, something that they can have their personal buy-in,” said Backer, who has spent much of the time. last year on a road trip across the country. in a Tesla speaking with local bands. “And with climate change, it’s really easy to do because it’s going to affect all the communities in this country.
On Capitol Hill, a cohort made up mostly of young Republican members of Congress are pushing the Home Party and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, despite some discomfort to his right, freshly published its own climate plan.
It focuses more on government carrots than sticks, like funding clean energy research, and emphasizes nuclear power and carbon-capture technologies, which progressive environments see with. mistrust.
“It shouldn’t be a partisan issue and it should be something on which we can find reasonable common ground,” said Representative Peter Meijer, R-Mich., 33 who believes Republicans can defend a free market approach. to climate solutions, told NBC News. “But it forces the Democratic Party not to green efforts at economic redistribution and it forces the Republican Party to stop the denial.”
The American Conservation Coalition has faced predictable criticism from left and right, but has overlapping membership with conservative youth groups like Turning Point USA and relationships with less politicized environmental groups like Nature. Conservancy.
The group chose Miami for their first rally because they see Florida as an example of conservative climate leadership.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a loyalist to former President Donald Trump who is considering his own presidential election in 2024, has just signed legislation to prepare the state for sea level rise and more severe storms that have gained overwhelming support in the GOP-controlled legislature.
DeSantis in particular didn’t talk much about climate change around the bill it doesn’t deal with carbon emissions either, but that may have helped depolarize the problem.
“We can debate all day why and how this is happening,” said Chris Sprowls, a Republican, president of Florida House. said in response to Democratic critics that it didn’t go far enough, “but if we were to do that and debate all day, we wouldn’t do anything.”