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A GOP sea change on climate? Not quite

By Thomas McKinless

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The GOP has long been known as the party of climate change denial, but some Republican lawmakers have been coming around to the idea that climate change is caused by human activity.

“I don’t think it’s a sign of weakness to evaluate new science, new information and new tech, and come to different conclusions,” said Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of a handful of Republican lawmakers hoping to push their party in the direction of addressing climate change.

“I think there’s a noticeable difference,” said New York Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. “I find that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are, in part, coming to the middle.”

The Republican ranks of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus were decimated by the 2018 elections, but the caucus is re-establishing in the 116th Congress under the leadership of Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch and Republican Rep. Francis Rooney, both of Florida.

“I don’t know if there’s a shift as a party, but I do know that there are some [Republican] members who are really interested,” Deutch told Roll Call. “Congressman Rooney is a good example of someone who is really interested in working together.”

Although some Republicans may be more willing to address climate change, there’s still no clear path forward. The most recent high-profile proposal from Congress has been the so-called Green New Deal championed by New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and several Democratic presidential hopefuls.

It is a nonbinding resolution to reduce greenhouse emissions drastically and build a renewable economy. But that resolution has become a punch line for Republicans in both chambers, including those like Gaetz who agree that Congress needs to take action on climate.

Gaetz in turn proposed a conservative alternative that he called the Green Real Deal, which has less focus on regulations. But it has gotten little traction with Democrats.

Watch our video interview with Gaetz, who gives his thoughts on subjects including climate change, and says history will judge his Republican colleagues “harshly” if they continue to deny climate science.


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