There is a saying: when the people lead, the leaders will follow.
In this case, it is young conservatives and Republicans who are attempting to drag their own leaders into taking action on a future in which they and their children will have to live, for better or worse.
It is no secret that the GOP Establishment refuses to take or allow any action on the issue of climate change. In fact, it’s barely even mentioned in this year’s party platform, except for claims that it’s all a political hoax or that the nation has more pressing problems to deal with. However, young Republicans and conservatives have been speaking out – and their voices are getting louder.
It should come as little surprise, when one thinks about it. Traditionally, the right wing is largely beholden to Big Business (in this case, the fossil fuel industry) and corporate interests. Younger conservatives and GOP members aren’t all that dissimilar from their elders in that respect, but there is one significant difference: they’ve been opening their eyes to the evidence of climate change that is in plain sight. Droughts, wildfires, flooding, rising sea levels, growing acidity in the world’s oceans, storms of increasing intensity – it’s all there.
Of course, the elders of the GOP, whose corporate handlers refuse to see beyond next quarter’s profit and loss statement, wouldn’t allow anything to interfere with those profits and the fossil fuel industry’s iron-fisted control over the world’s energy supplies. And why should they worry? Most of them are in their fifties and older. They’re not going to be around when it all hits the fan. A good number of them hold fast to the delusion that it doesn’t matter, because some great Cloud Deity will descend from the heavens and “make all things new.”
However, the younger set – those under the age of 35 – have many decades on this planet ahead of them. It’s possible that the youngest Republican voters will live to see the 22nd Century, and they’re wondering if Earth will even be inhabitable by then.
They have reason to worry. Scientists have stated that global climate change is already irreversible. The best we can do at this point is mitigate the damage by cutting carbon emissions, hopefully allowing the planet’s climate to reach an equilibrium. However, the GOP and conservative climate denial is a major barrier to that. Even those who acknowledging the problem are keeping their heads down this year in the face of the Trump juggernaut.
The younger set is rising to the challenge that their elders have shrugged off. They share the same values as their elders – namely free, unregulated markets and lower taxes. A number of them even embrace the same evangelical religious beliefs that older conservatives use to justify inaction on the issue of climate change. Members of one organization, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, are acting in the name of faith. Other groups, such as RepublicEn.org, are advocating for free market solutions to the problem (and there is indeed money to be made in renewables and environmental cleanup).
It’s another example of how people on both sides can agree on the challenges facing all of us. We may not agree on the solutions, but by acknowledging that the issues exist, we have a basis for dialogue – which can lead to solutions that will benefit everyone.