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Claim: ‘Climate science skeptics grasp for power in changing GOP’ – Some in GOP speak of ‘problem of’ global warming’ and offers ‘solutions’

E&E News

Climate science skeptics grasp for power in changing GOP

Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporter E&E Daily: Tuesday, March 10, 2020Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Photo credit: Francis Chung/E&E NewsHouse Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California during a briefing on Republican climate and environmental legislation last month. Francis Chung/E&E News

Skeptics of mainstream climate science and hard-line conservatives think they still have a hold on the GOP, despite a recent rhetorical evolution among congressional Republicans.

It’s part of a battle for the soul of the party between hard-right organizations, such as the Club for Growth, and the newfangled and well-funded ecosystem of conservative clean energy groups, led most prominently by ClearPath and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions.

There are abundant signs on Capitol Hill that people who question climate science are losing clout with Republicans. But they are insistent that not much has changed, particularly with President Trump still in the White House.

“I don’t think we’re losing much ground,” said Myron Ebell, a prominent energy advocate with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a longtime opponent of the scientific consensus that greenhouse gases are warming the planet. Ebell helped lead Trump’s EPA transition team.

“I do think that there’s been more hand waving,” he added, “but I don’t think Republican voters have been influenced very much by the hand waving and the shouting.”

Myron Ebell. Photo credit: Competitive Enterprise Institute.Myron Ebell. Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Party leadership on Capitol Hill would beg to differ. And even some Trump-loyal Republicans are happy to distance themselves from the climate science denial movement, even if they’re not willing to offer the kind of policies many experts say will be necessary to reduce the use of fossil fuels — the primary driver of climate change.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his top energy deputies rolled out a package of small-ball climate change bills last month, pointing to polls that show younger voters increasingly worried about the issue.

None would reduce fossil fuel use, but they would aim to reduce emissions through carbon capture and sequestration (Greenwire, Feb. 12).

Meanwhile, Republicans on powerful committees such as Energy and Commerce have largely dropped outright climate denial for the kind of “energy innovation” talking points favored by CRES and ClearPath.

“Both sides now recognize climate is changing, temperature is increasing [and] we need to do something about it,” said Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.). “We’re just speaking out and making our own views known better, and there is more evidence.”

The fact remains, however, that the Republican president frequently denies climate change and for a time employed a man — William Happer — tasked with performing a critical review of federal climate science.

For skeptics and libertarian ideologues alike who want to see the federal regulatory regime torn down, that’s an important audience.

“Policywise, what [EPA Administrator] Andrew Wheeler is doing is phenomenal. Policywise, what Donald Trump is doing is phenomenal,” said Marc Morano, director of communications at the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, who has questioned climate science for years.

“Policywise, what they’re doing is phenomenal and unbelievable and beyond anything we could have hoped,” he said. “It truly is.”