Opinion: Take it from a Republican: Our party is missing the point of climate change. And if we don’t change, voters will replace us.
It’s OK to believe in climate change and be Republican.
Actually, it’s OK to believe in climate change and be a good Republican.
A few months ago, I had lunch with a senior Republican official in Arizona. The conversation shifted to the environment and renewable energy.
I told him that I thought climate change was a problem, and that the federal and state government and utilities should be investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and other clean technologies that are now the most affordable energy source available.
He laughed and said he didn’t think there was such a thing as a conservative and an environmentalist.
It’s no longer government run amok
Like many Republican leaders, he has missed the change in attitude on this topic, especially among Republican voters. He doesn’t yet understand that the clean stuff is the most economic.
For decades, far too many Republicans have believed that any nod in the direction of pro-environmental policy meant the Environmental Protection Agency would, under the guise of protecting the environment, impose staggering new taxes, confiscate land and essentially destroy our way of life.
The spotted owl became a symbol to Republican stalwarts of a federal government run amok. Most Republicans in the ’90s believed environmentalists were more willing to protect an owl than a person’s livelihood.
As the saying goes, “That was then, and this is now.”
The future of clean energy won’t be found in U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal.” But Republican voters are smart enough to understand that her extreme position doesn’t negate the need to act on climate change.
Republican voters are agreeing that it’s OK to be green.
Renewable energy can now save us cash
Importantly, financial advisory firm Lazard noted in a recent report that renewable energy often beats coal on cost, even without subsidies or tax incentives. So, green also means dollar savings.
We’ve come a long way in a decade, and now renewable energy is also a fiscally responsible choice for ratepayers. This is a shift from the past, and it’s matched by a shift in attitudes.
I’ve been a Republican political consultant for 20 years. During those years, I’ve watched polling demonstrate that Republican voter attitudes are shifting about the issues of climate change and renewable energy, and, more importantly, that these attitudes are beginning to shift quite quickly.
If you need proof that Republican voters are moving on this issue, a survey recently conducted by Ashley Rich Stephenson of WPAi should be more than enough. She interviewed 504 likely voters in Arizona.
GOP voters said this – in Arizona
Her findings, especially among Republicans, sounds an alarm for Republican politicians – ignore the issue of climate change and renewable energy sources at your own peril. It is, pun intended, the canary in the coal mine.
- 57 percent of Arizona Republican voters said climate change is a serious or very serious problem.
- A mere 38 percent of Republicans said climate change wasn’t a serious threat.
- 56 percent of Republican voters believe that increasing the use of renewable energy, like wind and solar, will encourage economic growth.
- 52 percent of Republicans believe there are benefits to Arizona by adding more electric cars on the road.
- 51 percent of Republicans believe climate change will negatively impact Arizona’s fiscal health.
I’ve worked with the woman who conducted this survey. She isn’t a liberal Democrat. Her firm polled for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, among other clients. Her polling results can’t be dismissed because of liberal bias or that she isn’t credible at her craft.
I would expect more and more Republicans to begin viewing climate change as a serious threat. Arguably, critical mass has been reached with Republican voters on this topic, and Republican politicians need to take action.
Ignore climate change at our peril
The most important issue at the state Legislature this year has been about water and the drought that has impacted Arizona for years. Yet, most Republican legislators never mention climate change as a serious factor for the drought that they are working to address.
Voters, especially younger voters, want their leaders to know and articulate the threat imposed by climate change. To paraphrase President Clinton, “Feel their pain.”
Beyond just talking, Arizona voters want their leaders to implement real and tangible proposals such as advancing renewable energy, the efficient use of energy and electric vehicles.
For example, in order to put more electric vehicles on the roads, Arizona needs infrastructure that supports electric vehicles. The telephone wouldn’t be very practical if we hadn’t created the telephone pole and telephone wires. The same type of infrastructure needs to exist for electric vehicles.
The time has come for Republican elected officials to begin to lead on these issues. If they don’t, Republican primary voters may very well give someone else a chance.
Read the full article at AZ Central.