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By Denying Climate Change, Are Republicans Writing Off Young Voters?

By Mary C. Curtis

It makes sense that young people, who will have to live with the consequences of decisions made by their elders, are becoming increasingly passionate about climate change and global warming. Once an afterthought on the list of issues at the top of voters’ concerns, the future of the environment is now the topic of candidate town halls, serious investigative reports and, on Wednesday, a congressional hearing featuring young people offering advice and warnings.

It’s hard to miss the extreme weather patterns that bring 500-year floods way too often. But are politicians missing the boat on an issue that could transform the voting patterns of a generation?

Several young climate activists testified Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment and the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. As 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg admonished lawmakers to “listen to the scientists,” raising the global reach of the climate challenge, she and the other young people, who spanned the ideological spectrum, received respect from Democrats and Republican alike.

Standing in the way

But as their warnings unfolded, President Donald Trump was making news for his reported plan to revoke California’s right to set stricter air pollution standards for cars and light trucks. For Trump, a skeptic when it comes to acknowledging the effects of man-made climate change, it was the latest step to roll back regulations that date to the Obama era and beyond. They include, but are not limited to, the decision to pull the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, opening national parks to drilling, and lifting the requirement that oil and gas companies measure methane leaks.

It is a bit hypocritical that an administration that supports states’ rights and balks at federal intervention on issues such as abortion rights and gun reform is all in when it comes to rules about the air we breathe and the water we drink, a topic that individual states would be expected to know most about.