Republicans Are Slowly Warming to Climate Change—Is it Already Too Late?

As Hurricane Florence took hold of the Carolinas in mid-September, partisan talk swirled like the winds.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blamed the Trump administration for listening to “naysayers” who didn't want to switch to clean energy. Fossil fuels, she told reporters, absolutely contributed to the severity of the hurricane: “This is something that we have to look at in a big way, and it’s not served by denial of the facts.”

Former Vice President Al Gore weighed in from a climate conference in San Francisco. “Every night on the television news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation, and we’ve got to connect the dots between the cause and the effect,” he said. “Some people evidently can still deny the reality [of climate change]—it’s a little bit harder to deny the 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria last year.”

Rush Limbaugh used his radio show to fight back against what he called fearmongering. “This is made to order for the climate change–global warming crowd,” he said. “Hurricanes and hurricane forecasting is like much else that the left has gotten its hands on, and they politicize these things.”

He’s right, at any rate, that the topic is deeply politicized. A recent Gallup poll showed a gaping partisan divide on environmental policy: 69 percent of ­Republicans said they were satisfied with the current state of the environment, while 67 percent of Democrats said they were dissatisfied.

All of this feeds a self-perpetuating narrative that Americans’ views on climate change are split straight down the aisle—and are irreconcilable.

“You’ve got the Democrats who run out there and blame a specific weather event on climate change, and then you have someone like Republican Senator Jim Inhofe who will throw a snowball in the Senate to prove climate change isn’t real,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and former McCain-Palin presidential campaign adviser. “Both sides call up the carnival barkers, and nothing gets done.”

But Democrats and Republicans have more in common than they might think.

The problem, said GOP strategist O’Connell, was that in solidly red states a lot of jobs relied on the energy industry. Republicans thought they couldn't be re-elected if they told their constituents, “Let’s kill your jobs,” he said.

Read more from Nicole Goodkind at Newsweek

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