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More than 80 percent of Republicans support funding more research into renewable energy, for example, and nearly half support strict carbon dioxide emissions limits for coal-fired power plants.

Even some conservatives who spent their careers on Capitol Hill working to block climate legislation are beginning to incorporate climate change into their messaging. In a New York Times op-ed late last year, Barrasso acknowledged that "the climate is changing and we, collectively, have a responsibility to do something about it. Take car exhaust: When U. The act gave carmakers five years to reduce emissions of several pollutants by 90 percent. The auto industry warned lawmakers that the regulation would bankrupt carmakers or force them to pass the costs onto consumers, leading to an economic catastrophe either way—an argument that fossil fuel industry and its supporters still use today when lobbying against new regulations.

Lawmakers passed the act anyway, and the industry quickly developed and embraced the catalytic converter—a device that strips car exhaust of harmful pollutants and allowed the industry to meet the target just a few years behind schedule.


The Clean Air Act was so successful because, as little as a half-century ago, Americans across the political divide agreed on environmental policy. In , when the Senate passed an amendment strengthening the act, even Mitch McConnell R-Kentucky , who tried and failed to weaken the law so it would have less of an effect on the coal industry, voted in favor of it. In , John McCain, the late Republican senator from Arizona, ran for president with a campaign that called for swift action to combat global warming.

But just eight years later, the Republican presidential candidate who infamously called climate change a Chinese hoax would win the Republican primary, and, eventually, the presidency. Republicans' and Democrats' views on climate change had been diverging for years by , when President Donald Trump was elected and began systematically rolling back the strict environmental policies, and international agreements, put in place by his Democratic predecessor.

While the scientific evidence linking fossil fuel use and increasing carbon dioxide levels to rising temperatures has grown stronger, Republican lawmakers fell prey to a campaign of misinformation from the oil industry to sow doubt about climate science and stymie regulations that might cut into its profits.

So what's changed?

He’s Republican. He’s in Congress. And he’s pro-environment? | Tampa Bay Times

The reality of climate change has become harder to ignore outright, even in the U. And along with the climate, public opinion has shifted. The majority of Americans say they believe that climate change is happening—though there is still a steep divide between liberals and conservatives.

While 98 percent of liberal Democrats say they think global warming is happening, just 42 percent of conservative Republicans agree according to a report from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University.

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However, moderate Republicans and younger conservatives are significantly more likely to care about climate change. A third of Republican Millennials now say that humans activities are behind global warming, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Republican politicians have taken notice of the shift.

Could Climate Change Save the United States' Nuclear Energy Industry?

While environmental groups and critics on the left say that Republicans' climate policies don't go far enough, for the first time in more than a decade, the debate seems to be shifting from one about the existence of climate change to one about how to solve it. The Republican Party, with its respect for market realities, would be well positioned to offer solutions from climate to consumption, and oceans to fisheries.

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  • Call it global warming or climate change, the biggest of these challenges is our warming planet. Adding a few degrees to the average summer temperature in our country will not only make D. Technology and the markets can help.

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    All of this requires vocal champions on Capitol Hill, and a debate that acknowledges benefits and trade-offs. And all of it this will need the Republican Party to engage. But acknowledge it we must, because it is reality. The Republican Party is not bereft of leaders thinking about this. Republicans simply are not.