US Elections: Is there a changing attitude in the Republican Party towards climate change?

Tea Pary solar advocate Debbie Dooley. Photo credit: 90.1 FM Wabe.

By Anders Lorenzen

The US Republican presidential nomination has just been won by Donald Trump. But Republicans are still as much in denial about climate change as in recent decades, if not more so. Only three of the candidates running, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and John Kasich, have acknowledged there might be a problem with climate change, and that human activity has contributed to it.  But apart from Lindsey Graham, they have not proposed any meaningful solutions. So, one may assume that the Republican Party is as much in denial about climate change as ever.

However, down in the grass roots of the Party, is that about to change?

Recent research from Yale University found that in the last two years attitudes have changed significantly. And at 47%, nearly half of people who identify as Republicans not only believe in human-induced climate change but are also worried about it. And a total of 56% of Republicans agrees that climate change is happening, with the national average being 73%. And to further amplify the message of a revolution in the Republican Party on this issue, the shift of opinion on this issue is the largest shift in any group in the US.

The research found still more Democrats than Republicans agreeing with the science of climate change and are worried about its impacts. It also found that it is very much a generational issue. Young Republicans are much more likely to be worried about climate change than the older generation. And there are arguments that a change in the Republican Party’s stance on climate change will come via pressure from young Republicans.

And in the most conservative part of the Republican Party, the Tea Party movement, a green wing is also emerging. This wing name themselves as the Green Tea Coalition and they are calling for a pro-solar agenda. Debbie Dooley, who is the founder of the Green Tea Coalition, successfully lead a campaign that would require a Georgia state utility company to purchase more electricity from solar providers. In that fight, she went head to head with the anti-climate lobby group, Americans for Prosperity. That group is backed by fossil fuel billionaires the Koch Brothers, and she won that fight, securing backing from several Tea Party patriots.

But across the board in the US, only one in six Americans are aware of the scientific statistics on climate science, this despite the fact that 97% of scientists say it is happening. This ignorance can be attributed both to the official line in the Republican Party and to the many inaccurate news reports, with many networks adopting a Climate sceptic stance. However, despite this, a majority of Americans (43%) would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who wanted to take action on climate change.
The Republican candidate for president of US will now be one of the most divisive candidates the Party has ever had. Donald Trump frequently claims that climate change is a hoax. Now the crucial question will be whether Republican voters who believe in climate change would vote for him or switch to Hillary Clinton. Due to his controversial stance on many other issues, key Republicans have already ruled out voting for Trump, with some saying they would not vote at all while others are willing to back Clinton.

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