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Opinion | Republicans Must Embrace Responsible Environmentalism

For too long the Democratic Party has been the only party holding the microphone in conversations about the environment. Climate change has surpassed merely an issue of importance to voters to become a national and global threat. Two-thirds of voters agree that the federal government does too little to combat climate change. However, a much smaller fraction of our party agrees. This dichotomy represents a two-pronged threat wherein the GOP will suffer at the ballot box, and bad policy will be enacted in its absence if the party continues to cede this issue to the Democratic Party. Their Green New Deal proposal, for example, would kill jobs while doing little to realistically combat the threats that climate change poses.

Although, that is by design. Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff asked a reporter during an interview, “Do you guys think of it [the Green New Deal] as a climate thing?” Because we really think of it as a ‘how do you change the entire economy thing.’” The specifics of the boondoggle legislation aside, the bill’s primary purpose is to change the structure of our economy, not fight climate change.

It is imperative therefore, that the Republican Party reasserts itself as the party for the planet. This is because the two dominant narratives on climate change have been alarmism and denial. Without a political party advancing reform that is responsible and backed by science, no progress will be made, and our environment will become sicker. Our country and planet cannot afford to waste more time and resources on failed initiatives like the Paris Accord or the Green New Deal. Instead of allowing this issue to be simultaneously further politicized and ignored by extremists, we must take a new path. As College Republicans, we have a unique opportunity to put our party on that track and ensure that meaningful reforms be enacted.

One of the ways that we can join the growing conservative environmental movement is to support organizations that emphasize economic growth alongside conservation. The American Conservation Coalition, launched three years ago, has been among the chief advocates for responsible policies that protect our planet. Their most recent success was to help organize a bipartisan coalition in Congress to pass The Great American Outdoors Act. This legislation protects public lands, funds wildlife conservation, and park restoration throughout the country. Not only did it pass with large margins in both houses of Congress, but it passed because of the leadership of Republican Senators Cory Gardner and Steve Daines.

While this bill is among the most important achievements for environmentalism in decades, it is only a first step. We as a party must follow up by supporting the American Climate Contract. By doing so we address an issue voters care about, and most importantly we advance solutions backed by science which can be embraced and passed through a divided Congress. Central to this proposal are realistic policies that center on four pillars: energy innovation, 21st century infrastructure, natural solutions, and global engagement. Utilizing pro-growth solutions and science, the Contract sets forth principles that will not only revitalize our planet but our economy as well. Even once the coronavirus pandemic subsides, climate change will remain a pressing issue that will urgently need to be addressed. In election years, politics often obstructs good ideas, so now more than ever, we as Republicans must lend our support to organizations like the American Conservation Coalition, so that they are able to unite our legislators behind sensible solutions and not impossible promises.

The consequences of ignoring a responsible and realistic path forward on climate change could result in sweeping Democratic majorities in Congress, the enactment of the socialist Green New Deal, and a metastasized environmental crisis. As a member of College Republicans and the generation that is being most threatened by climate change, I am pledging my support to the American Climate Contract, and I invite fellow conservatives on campus and across the country to join me.

Author: Patrick Burland

The views expressed are the author's alone and are not an official statement of GWCRs

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