If GOP Voters are Ready to Move on Climate Change, Why Aren't GOP Candidates?

The Republican leadership in Congress and most GOP presidential candidates are dead-set against EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the nation’s program to counter climate change.

But the latest polling indicates that these politicians may be way behind Republican voters.

Sixty-three percent of Americans — including a bare majority of Republicans — say they would support domestic policy limiting carbon emissions from power plants. And that’s what the Clean Power Plan aims to do.

The survey was conducted for CBS News and The New York Times. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that global warming was already having a serious environmental impact or would in the future. Nine in 10 Democrats agreed, compared with 58 percent of Republicans. 

The increase in the percentage of Republican voters concerned about climate change and supportive of action was documented a couple of months ago, too. A survey by three GOP pollsters found that 56 percent of Republicans believe that the climate is changing, and 54 percent of conservative Republicans would support a carbon tax if the money were rebated. The survey was underwritten by Jay Faison, a North Carolina Republican and entrepreneur who considers climate change a serious threat and is investing millions of dollars to address it.

American voters are eager to “depoliticize” climate change and clean energy, said Kristen Soltis Anderson, one of three pollsters. “At the moment some of the louder voices in the party are dominating this debate,” she told The New York Times. “But as we move out of the entertainment phase of the (presidential) campaign and look at more of the policy platforms, there’s a way for Republicans to talk about this that depoliticizes climate.”

“If you just look over the past five or six years since Copenhagen, there’s been a shift,” David Waskow told The Times in a story on the CBS-Times survey. He is director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute and was referring to the 2009 climate change conference. “There’s much more awareness of issues like sea level rise, water scarcity and climate instability.”

It seems that congressional Republicans need an alternative to EPA’s regulatory scheme. That is what the Partnership for Responsible Growth is trying to provide. We met individually with 175 Senate and House members, or their aides, to sound them out on this centrist approach: enact a carbon fee and use half the revenue from that fee to drop the corporate tax rate, the highest in the industrial world, from 35 to 25 percent. Most of the other revenue could go to low- and middle-income Americans to protect them from slightly higher energy prices. Encourage global adoption with a border tax adjustment.

We focused on Republicans, and most were receptive to this concept. They need to hear from business leaders back home and other constituents who think this is a practical solution. If our nation is to honor its emissions pledges and serve as a global leader, Congress must become part of the solution.