In Washington, D.C., Rep. Chris Gibson could be considered an anomaly. Unlike 68 percent of his Republican colleagues in the 114th Congress, the congressman from New York does not publicly deny the science of human-caused climate change. In fact, Gibson is one of the small handful of congressmembers who publicly states that climate change is real. He’s even gone so far as to introduce a resolution that would “recognize the reality” of global warming’s dangers.
So it’s safe to say that in Congress, Gibson is an abnormal Republican. Outside of Congress, however, his views are less peculiar for his party.
According to a Yale University study released Monday, 44 percent of registered Republican voters across the country think that climate change is real and caused by humans. In addition, strong majorities of liberal and moderate Republicans also accept that climate change is real — 68 percent of liberal Republicans, and 62 percent of moderate Republicans. Only self-identifying conservative and tea party Republicans overwhelmingly reject the scientific literature on climate change.
CREDIT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
So what does that say about our current Congress? Well for one, as pointed out by The Washington Post’s Jaime Fuller, it shows that Americans don’t elect moderate or liberal Republicans to office. Another thing Fuller pointed out is that those moderate and liberal Republicans just don’t really exist in large numbers — 70 percent of the people surveyed considered themselves conservative or tea party, while only 30 percent identified as liberal or moderate.
Both of those observations, combined with the fact that American voters don’t consider climate change to be a priority and that conservatives are the most likely demographic to vote in primaries, are to say that it’s not likely that America will see many climate-friendly Republicans in Congress any time soon. Just how unfriendly the current Senate is to the climate movement will reportedly be revealed during a floor vote on Tuesday on the question of whether climate change is real and caused by humans, a fact that an overwhelming majority of scientists have confirmed.
There is, however, some good news for climate hawks in all of this. For one, the Yale University study showed that even though the majority of Republicans don’t actively accept that global warming is real, a majority of every group except tea party Republicans think carbon dioxide should be regulated as a pollutant — a fact that, Yale noted, runs “in contrast to the current goal of Republican leaders in Congress to block EPA regulations on carbon dioxide.” Specifically, 56 percent of all Republicans support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, including 54 percent of self-identifying conservatives. In addition, 64 percent of Republicans in general support tax rebates for people who buy energy-efficient cars or solar panels.
Some believe that the overall Republican view on climate science and policies to fight climate change will change as younger generations grow up and begin taking office. As noted by a thorough Washington Post report on the subject, Republican support for climate action — even if it costs money — gets bigger and bigger as voters get younger. Unfortunately, most scientists say that in order to fight climate change successfully, it has to be done very, very soon — meaning climate hawks will just have to depend on Republican support from politicians like Gibson for now.