Climate change and other environmental megaproblems cannot be solved without broad popular support. In two-party political systems, such as the United States, it is therefore hard to produce effective climate policy without a bipartisan coalition. However, in the United States, a partisan divide on climate change prevails: while a large majority of Democrats support emissions reductions in the Congress, a large majority of Republicans oppose them.
This divide presents a major impediment to effective action, and doubly so because the opponents of federal action can generally prevent new legislation through a filibuster unless the supporting coalition has 60 out of 100 votes. Needless to say, to obtain such a large majority is very difficult.
Is there any hope that climate policy would become a bipartisan cause in the United States? To be honest, I don’t know. But it may be useful to briefly survey some recent initiatives within the conservative base of the Republican Party.
1) My personal favorite is the Climate Conservative website. The website makes the case why conservatives should trust climate scientists and support action to mitigate global warming. It argues that the conservative movement has a proud history of environmental protection. This history is best exemplified by such great American figures as President Teddy Roosevelt (they also include President Ronald Reagan in this group). Perhaps most interestingly, the website advices that the visitor should not “let Al Gore get in the way.” Here’s the magic passage:
“If Gore decides to champion the cleanup of a river that is clearly polluted, that fact does not make the river any more or less polluted, nor does it have any bearing on the merit of cleaning the river up. The same is true with climate change. Just because Gore wants to make something his own (he also once claimed to have invented the Internet) is no reason to cede it to him. A climate conservative realizes that Al Gore’s opinions on climate change are irrelevant and have no impact, positive or negative, on how he or she approaches the issue.”
2) Within the powerful evangelical movement, a tension exists between those who believe that environmentalism is not a Christian cause and those who advocate creation care, or the notion that Christians should protect the natural environment that God has created. For one interesting example of how young evangelicals advocate creation care, I recommend Jonathan Merritt’s website. A Southern Baptist, he has recently published a book, Green Like God, that I hope to have a chance to read soon.
It would undoubtedly ease progress towards effective climate policy if segments of the conservative Republican case would begin to demand action by the Republicans in the House and the Senate. But so far, I have not seen much evidence of politically effective action by the creation care movement. I hope I will be proven wrong in the future.