The Republican convention in Cleveland has come to a close, and the official platform of the Party for 2016 maintains the Party’s continued refusal to act on climate change. The Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, openly admits that he believes climate change is a “hoax.”
As easy as it is to forget, it is important to remember that political affiliation and Party platforms don’t always coalesce, and the platforms don’t always reflect the will of the Party members. And that’s certainly the case with climate change and Republicans.
It turns out that the majority of self-identified Republicans actually do accept climate science, and they understand that climate change is a very real threat. The views of Republican elected officials in Washington, D.C. and those funding the Republican Party do not reflect the attitudes of the voters on this issue anymore, and that’s a phenomenal step forward.
But the partisan denial problem goes further than just one political part. It stretches all the way through conservative media outlets, particularly those owned by Rupert Murdoch (Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and countless others.) This right wing echo chamber has played a major role in shaping Republican policy towards the environment, and has helped to keep Republican voters in the dark about the realities of climate change.
Convincing Republican leaders to accept the science that they’ve ignored or outright attacked for years may seem like a Herculean task, but that hasn’t stopped several conservative groups from trying to force the far right to stop denying that climate change is a threat.
The Partnership for Responsible Growth, a conservative organization, ran ads during last week’s Republican National Convention on conservative media outlets showing Republican leaders like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney discussing the dangers of climate change, and urging other Republicans to do the same. Here is one of the ads that ran on Fox News during last week’s convention:
But, as The Guardian pointed out, a far more poignant version of that same ad was rejected by Fox, presumably because it called out specific climate change deniers:
The Guardian also notes that the Partnership for Responsible Growth has taken out a series of ads in the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, calling out the publication’s long history of climate change denial.
Other groups, including ConservAmerica, are trying to force the issue of climate change onto Republican candidates, encouraging them to not only accept the science of climate change, but to rally behind solutions to help save the planet.
There are also plenty of individuals both inside and operating from outside the Republican Party that are hoping to change the Party’s views on climate change. As we reported earlier this month, conservative climate activist Jay Faison announced that he would be spending $5 million in this election cycle to help elect Republicans that accept climate change.
In addition to Faison’s outside influence, Republican politicians are hoping to push their Party in the correct direction on climate change from within. For example, the Republican mayor of Carmel, Indiana, Jim Brainard, has worked for years to make his city less reliant on fossil fuel transportation by opening up new bicycle and pedestrian routes. When pressed by Grist as to why he supports a Party that openly denies climate change, Brainard offered the following explanation:
There are multiple paths to the same result. Conserve is the root of the word conservative. We ought to be preserving our fossil fuels if they’re needed in a future emergency. We wouldn’t have to be involved in as many of the wars we’ve been involved in if we weren’t protecting our flow of oil. Whether one chooses to believe the scientists or not, there are many reasons to reduce our use of fossil fuels. In terms of science, a conservative ought to err on the possibility that [scientists] might be right.
All of these efforts are commendable and, hopefully, just the first of many shifts within the Republican Party towards accepting scientific evidence.
It is unfortunate that an issue such as climate change policy is still partisan, but as the effects of climate change continue to become more and more obvious — and nonpartisan in their devestation — it will soon be too difficult for anyone, even the staunchest of deniers, to continue on their current path.
Image via Oil Change International