Let’s start with what isn’t news: A majority of Republicans support action to limit climate pollution. That fact was demonstrated again last week by a poll from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
Also not news: Many Republican members of Congress seem to disagree with them.
There are a lot of reasons for this split, but it is not a sustainable path for a party that wants to extend its electoral success at the state level to winning the White House.
The big theme of the new Republican Congress has been a desire to “govern” and get things done. Both Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want to demonstrate their party’s seriousness, showing it can solve problems and it deserves full control of the government after 2016.
No one believes that, at the moment, Boehner and McConnell are feeling pressure to propose solutions to the threat of climate change.
But their problem comes in the form of a steady stream of data – from NASA’s announcement that 2014 was the hottest year on record to the fact that the last time we experienced a year that wasn’t hotter than average was when the Bee Gee’s dominated the Billboard pop charts.
Those facts, along with real and visible climate impacts, are making it harder to appear serious and responsible while denying the need to take some action to address climate change.
It’s a situation similar to one the Democrats used to face.
They were very successful in state and Congressional elections, but seldom seemed to win the White House. That was true, in part, because there was a perception that they weren’t serious on national security issues.
As with climate change now, national security was the top priority issue for a majority of voters – but it signaled something more subtle about a candidate’s fitness to lead the nation.
Did he or she take seriously the threats we face? Were they the type of leader who dealt with the world as it really was – or were they willing to wish away hard problems?
The same is true today with climate change today.
Many in the Republican party are eager to show Americans that their ideas are better for solving the nation’s toughest challenges.
If they step forward with new ideas on climate, that will not only put them in line with a majority of the voters in their party, but it will show all Americans they are serious about governing.