As global temperatures rise, some congressional Republicans are feeling the pressure to show they’re embracing climate change and offer up their own plan for how to deal with it.
But those same Republicans are also running smack dab into a familiar obstacle: former President Donald Trump, their de facto party leader and a potential 2024 presidential candidate who is still firmly in the denial camp.
Trump blasted out a statement as recently as this week doubling down on calling climate change “the Global Warming Hoax.” He followed it up with a fundraising email a few days later, dubbing climate change one of his top seven hoaxes, alongside the Russia investigation and the 2020 election.
With few in the party willing to directly push back on Trump over the issue for fear of alienating the base or angering the mercurial former President, the GOP’s push to shake its image as the party of climate change deniers is facing a steep climb.
It’s a conundrum that could manifest itself in the next elections. Republicans increasingly view climate change – which is a top priority for young voters of both parties – as an electoral weakness if they don’t make more of a concerted effort to acknowledge the problem and provide solutions.
“I keep telling Republicans we can win the solution debate, but if we’re in the denial camp, we’ve got a problem,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told CNN. “I think in 2024 we need to have a platform in our party that speaks to this issue.”
Yet some of the most vocal proponents of climate and environmental issues in the GOP acknowledge they are still encountering resistance on the far right, which is threatening to undermine their mission.
“We have our extremism (in the party). It tends to manifest itself in what I would call denial,” said Rep. John Curtis, a Utah Republican and co-founder of the Conservative Climate Caucus. “I think it’s fair to say that’s been out there, and there’s nobody to blame but ourselves. Because we’ve either been silent or all we do is tell people what we don’t like. This is different for us, speaking out and actually putting forth ideas.”
“Part of this branding problem … is our own fault,” he added.
Republicans are trying to craft their climate policy
Despite the long odds, there’s a group of Republicans determined to put their stamp on the climate policy debate.