Republicans are seeing climate change is real. Ignoring that’s a risky business.

Conservatives across the U.S. believe that climate change is real reports Scientific American. As weird weather, rising disaster claims, disturbed livelihoods, scientific evidence, and clear messages fill the air, people’s minds are changing.

Forty-seven percent of conservatives now say the climate is changing, a leap of 19 points since the midterm elections of 2014, according to the survey released yesterday by Yale and George Mason universities. The poll did not ask respondents whether climate change is caused by people.

The article contains an error. They quote Anthony Leiserowitz as saying that climate change hasn’t come up on the Republican side. That’s actually not true. In a previous debate, Sen. Marco Rubio and John Kasich both addressed it. Rubio raised typical doubter claims (see Yale’s Six Americas study on doubters). Kasich, however, stated that climate change is real but called into question just how much people contribute to it. He coupled this position to an all-of-the-above energy strategy. Watch him here:

After years of intransigence, folks in the Republican party are coming around to see that the climate is changing. Many of them still question the human role. That will take some time. With Republican Representatives Gibson, Curbelo, Fitzpatrick, and others leading for some people. There are enough Republicans now that it makes a difference. As SciAm notes,

The poll also found broad support for government policies to expand renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Eighty-four percent of all registered voters support more funding for energy sources like wind and solar, including 91 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans. A similar number, 81 percent of all voters, support giving tax rebates to people who buy energy-efficient cars or solar panels, including 91 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans.

On regulating carbon dioxide, 75 percent of all voters expressed support for that action, including 88 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans. A carbon tax on oil and gas companies netted less support among Republicans, at 47 percent, even as 86 percent of Democrats described it as a good idea.

Former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs executive Hank Paulson has started the Paulson Institute to quantify and publicize the economic costs of climate change. 

With prominent economic conservatives at the Paulson Institute and others talking about placing a price on carbon, that number will go up. They are now in a growing group that’s crossing the political spectrum with that message. With conservatives talking about a “climate debt” from a place of authenticity, this idea will take hold. It will also line up with the experience of farmers, ranchers, fishermen/women, and scientists. Increasingly, those people who self-identify as themselves as tied to the land and sea where the land and sea are being altered are going to be saying, “My life is changing, and it’s not for the better.” They already are calling on officials to do something about it as Seamus McGraw shows in his book Betting the Farm on a Drought.

“I think if these trends continue, Republicans will find themselves out of step with voters who believe climate change is real,” he added. “I think Republicans should be trying to find areas of agreement with pro-environmental voters and seek to emphasize those areas rather than focus on the different views about whether or not climate change is real or the role mankind plays or doesn’t play in it.”

By 2020, the Republican presidential candidate won’t be able to run on a climate denial platform. By 2024 they won’t be able to deny the human trace. By that point, they may have a progressive energy platform.

If they don’t adapt, they will be like the streets of Charleston and Miami: swallowed by the rising tide.


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