Conservatives for change

Young conservatives need to show their support for climate change solutions

The conversation about environmentalism should cross party lines.

Growing up in Minnesota, I was instilled with a healthy love for my home state’s 10,000 lakes and unmatched natural beauty. I was always taught to conserve water and energy, never litter, and recycle as often as possible. As I got older, I developed a strong interest in conservative politics and became involved in Republican groups. 

Now, as a politically involved college student, I often get the question, “How can you care so much about the environment and still be a Republican?” Somehow holding conservative views and caring about the planet have become mutually exclusive. However, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions and the American Conservation Coalition (ACC) released the results of a national survey in July 2019 that proved I’m not the only young Republican who likes swimming in clean oceans and breathing clean air. The survey found that two-thirds of millennial GOP voters believe that the Republican Party needs to do more to address climate change. 

However, when we look to the national stage, it would be hard for anyone to guess there is any GOP support for climate change solutions. With loud voices on the left like representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) asking for sweeping, unattainable proposals like the Green New Deal, it is easy for Republican legislators to feel the need to push back against ideas coming from the left instead of proposing their own solutions.

Millennials on both sides of the aisle want to see something done about climate change, and conservative students across the country are tired of the narrative being dominated by the left at a national level. It seems like the left is constantly talking about why we need to address climate change and find clean energy solutions, and I firmly believe it’s time for the right to do what it does best and figure out the how. 

It is time for Republican leaders to step up and offer specific, market-based clean energy solutions in response to the alarmist ideas coming from the left. That’s why 45 student activists including myself flew to Washington D.C. with the American Conservation Coalition Campus (ACCC) in July. The three-day fly-in consisted of meetings on Capitol Hill, within the White House and at the Departments of Energy and Interior as well as the EPA.

The week highlighted the importance of young conservatives speaking up and showing support for an All-of-the-Above energy approach. Replacing energy CO2 emitting energy sources with clean ones all at once is simply not feasible. All-of-the-Above solutions promote clean energy sources like wind and biomass while allowing growth in traditional energy sources like coal and oil. This approach creates a level playing field for all energy sources and the subsequent competition leads to innovation, allowing more choice for consumers and reduced carbon emissions. 

We can use the power of the free market to provide cleaner, greener, and more affordable energy to consumers. By working to improve carbon capture and environmentally-friendly mining, fracking, and agricultural practices, we are able to maintain current energy jobs, create new ones, and set an example for the rest of the world to reduce their carbon emissions. 

In order to continue to be a world energy and economic leader, we can’t focus on carbon taxes and regulations on agriculture and air travel. We need to set an example for the rest of the world by sharing our technology with other countries to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. We cannot export excessive regulations; they only hurt our economy and do nothing to impact CO2 emissions worldwide.

Luckily, the American Conservation Coalition Campus enables students like me to speak up about their support for all of the above energy solutions. I never thought I would find myself waiting outside of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office for a meeting or skipping my morning coffee to speak with staff from the White House Council on Environmental Quality. 

After hearing leaders like Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Representatives John Curtis (R-UT) and Brian Mast (R-FL) share their support for All-of-the-Above solutions, I am optimistic that the work of organizations like ACCC will begin to change the narrative that only Democrats care about climate change. Every meeting I attended was filled with constructive conversations about real, conservative solutions to reduce carbon emissions and solve the climate crisis. 

I was ecstatic to hear staff from Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) office share her work with Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, creating legislation to heighten energy efficiency in federal buildings. Millennials and Gen. Z are becoming the largest voting block. It is important for young conservatives to join the climate conversation, and vocalize their support for Republican legislators to change the narrative and produce conservative climate change solutions.

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