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August 28, 2023

The GOP’s Climate Change Challenge

Come the general election, Republican Party policy on the question of climate change will have to do more than call it a hoax.

It pains us to say it, but Greta Thunberg is winning the climate change debate.

No, she doesn’t make good, sound, thoughtful, rational arguments, and she doesn’t communicate in a way that invites consensus and collaboration. Instead, she gives decent people a rash. She’s a petulant child being exploited by her parents and by the media and by the Left. But the issue of climate change is becoming harder and harder for Republicans to simply ignore or dismiss — at least from an electoral perspective.

Young Republicans, for example, are a lot more concerned about the climate than are older Republicans. So, of course, are the centrists and the independents who tend to decide elections. According to a September 2022 AP-NORC poll, 62% of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to reduce climate change. That number includes half of Republicans under age 45 but only 32% of older Republicans. The point here is that when nearly two-thirds of the electorate feel a certain way about a certain issue, it’s electorally suicidal to dismiss that issue as a hoax — or to allow the leftist press to say you’re dismissing it as a hoax.

So if the Republican Party is to fare well in the 2024 election — both for president and all down the ballot — the party will need to hone and communicate a coherent message that goes deeper than, “Climate change is a hoax.”

Perhaps the most riveting moment of last week’s GOP presidential debate came when 38-year-old upstart Vivek Ramaswamy took a shot at the rest of the candidates on climate change: “I’m the only person on the stage who isn’t bought and paid for,” he said, “so I can say this: The climate change agenda is a hoax, and we need to declare our independence from it.”

Right behind Ramaswamy’s feel-good zinger was the moment when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis shut down co-moderator Bret Baier’s effort to get a show of hands about whether they believe climate change is man-caused. “We’re not children here,” said DeSantis — and that was the end of Baier’s show-of-hands stunt.

Incidentally, notice how Ramaswamy said the climate change agenda is a hoax, but notice how the dishonest mainstream media reported otherwise. The Appropriated Associated Press and The Hill and plenty of others reported that he called climate change itself a hoax. That’s a lie. What he did was say that the Left’s claim that we need to enact the Green New Deal, and we need to declare war on fossil fuels, and we need more windmills and solar panels, and we need to phase out the internal combustion engine in order to save the planet — those things are a hoax.

If you’re like us, you smiled at the rhetorical force of Ramaswamy’s statement. But then, like it does after you’ve eaten a rich piece of chocolate, the endorphin rush subsides and we end up back where we were — in this case, wondering when the Republican Party will agree on a basic set of climate principles and when its candidates for president will begin communicating them. Because while “hoax” sounds great, while it sounds like a necessary thumb in the eye of Green New Dealers, it isn’t going to get it done at the ballot box — especially in the swing states, where razor-thin margins will determine who our next president is and whether our Supreme Court will retain its conservative majority for the next generation.

“We’re getting to a point where Republicans are losing winnable elections because they’re alienating people that care about climate change,” said Christopher Barnard, the Republican president of the American Conservation Coalition, the largest conservative environmental group in the nation. “You don’t have to be the biggest climate champion,” Barnard continued. “If you just say, ‘Climate change is real, and we’re going to have some sort of solution,’ that’s enough for most voters.”

That may or may not be enough, but at least it’s a start. We tend to think the Republican Party’s position on climate change should include an acknowledgement that the planet may indeed be warming slightly and that human activity might play a small role in that warming.

But beyond that, the real debate must be what to do about it. As climate thinkers like Bjorn Lomborg have long maintained, many of the elaborate and expensive actions that the Green Left proposes are both inefficient and deeply misguided. Why, for example, spend trillions of dollars in an effort to move global temperatures a fraction of a degree and ruining the global economy in the process when we can instead address issues with far greater benefit to humanity, such as fighting malaria and maintaining a safe and fresh water supply around the globe?

Furthermore, the war that Barack Obama and Joe Biden have been waging on American energy independence has been, as Ramaswamy rightly put it, “a wet blanket” on the American economy. And given that it’s still the economy, stupid, this is the sort of rational environmental territory that Republicans can win on.

In short, the word “hoax” has a nice ring to it, but it’s not going to win us any hotly contested elections.

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