As we gear up for another election, among concerns of COVID, racial inequality, and the economy, another issue is at the forefront of many voters’ minds – climate change.
Even though 97% of scientists agree that the climate is warming due to human activities, doubts among the general public run strong. Sadly, many times this has come down to a partisan issue – 72% of Democratic and Democratic leaners believe that human action is greatly contributing to climate change, vs. 22% of Republicans and Republican leaners. But gradually, this is changing, especially among the young. More and more people are seeing climate change as a scientific, ethical, and moral issue rather than a political one. Many Republicans are realizing what an important issue climate is – for this election and the future – and in some instances, the partisan divide is gradually beginning to fade.
The Government is Not Doing Enough
According to a Pew Research study, two-thirds of people believe the government is not doing enough to combat climate change. While this belief is more left-leaning, this belief spans both Republicans and Democrats.
Overwhelmingly, young Republicans are leading the charge within their party. They are more likely than the previous generation of Republicans to think that human activity has a strong impact on climate change, and more frequently believe that the government is not doing enough to protect parks, rivers, and air quality, and to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Republicans Combating Climate Change
Benji Backer is the founder and president of the American Conservation Coalition. A conservative himself, he is traveling America to urge other Republicans to take climate change seriously. He even drafted a conservative counterpart to the Green New Deal – the American Climate Contract.
Several pieces of climate change legislation have been led by Republicans. U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) sponsored a carbon capture bill that would turn carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into usable products. U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) cosponsored a bill to develop geothermal zero-emission energy. Murkowski also sponsored a Carbon Capture Bill – the CREATE Act. And spanning both parties, a bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus was formed in 2019 in the Senate to combat climate change.
How to See Eye to Eye Across the Political Divide
Recently, a team of researchers at George Washington University and North Carolina Central University performed a study, published in the journal Science Communication, on how climate change can be viewed as a non-partisan issue. They had 2015 participants view an episode of the National Geographic documentary “Years of Living Dangerously” on solar energy, coal use, and deforestation. Participants were polled both before and after the study.
Before watching the documentary, Democrats were more likely to understand the risks of climate change and believe that they could take action against it. After viewing the documentary, this difference between parties went away.
The authors pointed to the power of the narrative story. They mentioned that participants who were the most engaged with the story were more likely to come to understand the risk regarding climate change – and what they could do about it.
Dr. Ashley Bieniek-Tobasco, lead author of the study, said that “engaging storytelling is potentially a powerful tool for combating polarization. If used in the right way, it may also catalyze changes in political behaviors needed to build political will to implement policy solutions to address climate change, and ultimately protect our health.”