The Republican Party is divided over whether to attack the science of climate change when opposing liberal policies.
Many of the most vocal Republicans say they have significant problems with the scientific consensus that the Earth is warming and that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity is the main cause. The skeptics include presidential hopefuls Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) and Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas), both chairmen of committees overseeing environmental issues.
But others in the GOP aren’t interested in litigating the science. They say it’s more important — and far easier — to show that Democratic climate proposals would be disastrous to the economy and kill jobs.
The split comes as more and more voters, particularly young people and minorities, say in opinion polls that they believe climate change is real and want action to fight it.
Democrats have lined up firmly behind that view, with President Obama set to implement carbon dioxide limits for power plants that amount to the most significant action yet by the federal government to fight climate change.
Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist, said rejecting climate science can be a dangerous game for Republicans, depending on their goals.
“In Congress, because you know your district, if you want to stay all-out skeptical, that’s fine,” he said. “But if you’re in a swing district, or if you’re running for president, you’re far better off talking about it in terms of its relationship to jobs and the economy.”
O’Connell said Democrats are nearly certain to make climate change an issue in the presidential race, something the GOP nominee will have to be prepared for.
“The only person who’s going to really have to in any way plausibly be concerned about solutions is whoever the Republican nominee is, because that’s something that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats want to make an issue,” he said.