Two former Republican congressional staffers have started an advocacy group to bring conservative solutions into the debate over climate change.
The Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was founded by Drew Bond, who worked for former Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., and was chief of staff for the Heritage Foundation, and John Hart, former communications director for former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Hart said his experience making his family’s farm sustainable informed his desire to work on environmental issues. They said liberal politicians have dominated the debate around climate change and they hope to introduce ideas addressing the issue from a conservative perspective.
“Climate change isn’t an issue conservatives should run from. It is an issue we should run toward,” Hart said when the group was announced on May 6. “Progressive solutions like the Green New Deal would lead to economic deforestation while doing nothing to protect our natural environment.”
The group, also known as C3 Solutions, cited a Pew poll saying half of Republicans under the age of 40 believe the government should address climate change. Bond and Hart said they have worked to understand what young conservatives believe about the environment.
C3 Solutions will focus on examining the economic impacts of climate change policy proposals, promote the building of infrastructure able to withstand catastrophic events and sustainable agriculture and forestry practices.
“There is a generational divide and I think part of what we’ve seen in the past year within the GOP is a realization of that,” Hart said in an interview with CQ Roll Call. “The debate is more or less over among young Americans, even conservatives.”
They also call for loosening environmental regulations to accelerate nuclear energy production, as well as other forms of non-fossil fuel energy. Bond and Hart would also like to see changes in the National Environmental Protection Act. The Trump administration has pushed to accelerate the environmental studies required by the law, but Bond said the law impedes new solar and nuclear production.
The best way to address emissions “is through innovation and the best way is by deploying as many clean energy technologies as fast as possible at the largest potential scale,” Bond said in the interview. “That’s nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass waste, reducing methane emission, reducing tailpipe emissions, that’s all innovation.”
“We want to give conservatives a place where they can ask questions, they can be skeptical, and at the same time if they believe that this is a risk worth mitigating then there is going to be a lot of solutions and a lot of ideas they can embrace,” he said.
The group’s founding advisory board member is former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. When running for president in 2012 Santorum expressed skepticism about the science behind climate change, and in 2018 said on CNN a lot of climate scientists were driven by the money they receive.
Other members of the advisory board include Yuval Levin, a director at the American Enterprise Institute, and Lauren Noyes, former director of House Relations for the Heritage Foundation. Hart said Noyes was brought on because she interacts with young conservatives in her position as executive director of Faith & Law, a nonprofit that hosts Christian speakers for staffers.
Hart said they realize their group may be met with skepticism, but he said conservatives with environmental concerns are not outliers. He added the climate debate has been dominated by groups on the left, but he would like to see groups work together to find common ground.
“Big public policy debates are always resolved best when there is a durable solution, and a durable solution means there is broad buy-in from the left and right,” said Hart.
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