Ten Republican representatives have reportedly signed on to a call for action on climate change, a move that’s a dramatic departure from their caucus, but broadly in line with the views of the American public.
Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) will sponsor the resolution, which is expected to be released Thursday, ahead of Pope Francis’ Congressional speech next week. The pope is expected to specifically address climate change while in Washington.
“This is a call for action to study how humans are impacting our environment and to look for consensus on areas where we can take action to mitigate the risks and balance our impacts,” Gibson told National Journal. ClimateWire first reported on the resolution.
Gibson has said the resolution will have three key elements: recognizing that human activity contributes to global warming, acknowledging future impacts, and committing to address greenhouse gas emissions in “economically viable ways,” ClimateWire reported.
Like 31 percent of Congress and 22 percent of the general public, Gibson is Catholic. More than half of the resolution’s confirmed co-sponsors are also Catholic. The pope has been an outspoken advocate for addressing climate change and environmental protection.
As a Catholic and a former military officer with 24 years of service, Gibson is particularly well-suited to be a Republican speaking out on climate change. The military has repeatedly identified climate change as a national security issue and has itself begun broadly transitioning to renewable energy.
Nearly all the Republican presidential candidates have downplayed the ramifications or outright denied the existence of anthropogenic climate change, but polls suggest the caucus is out of step with the American public and its constituents.
In a recent poll in New Hampshire — one of the first primary states — half of the likely Republican primary voters said they support the EPA’s current plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants. Swing state voters came down roughly 2-1 in favor of acting on climate change in a July Quinnipiac poll.
A co-sponsor of the resolution, freshman House member Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), has been outspoken in the need to address climate change. Curbelo has noted that being on the right side of the issue will be critical in attracting young voters to the Grand Ol’ Party. Curbelo is also Catholic, along with four other representatives that reportedly signed the call to action: Pat Meehan and Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and Richard Hanna and Elise Stefanik of New York. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Robert Dold of Illinois, Dave Reichert of Washington, and Ryan Costello of Pennslyvania will also co-sponsor.
It is only in recent years that climate change has become a mostly partisan issue in Congress. In 2008, Republican candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) sought to address anthropogenic climate change in his campaign. More recently, though, Congressional Republicans have made stopping the Clean Power Plan and undermining international climate treaties a priority.
Gibson introduced the Environmental Stewardship Resolution on Thursday morning. “All too often, the conversation about appropriate and balanced environmental stewardship gets caught up in partisan politics. Yet, this conversation is key to the preservation of our great country for generations to come, as important as ensuring we have fiscally responsible policies to secure our future,” Gibson said in a statement. “For that reason, I believe the most important first step forward is recognizing that this is also a fundamentally conservative issue, and finding common ground on how to address it.”
The resolution calls for more scientific studies, modernizing energy transmission and expanding renewable energy sources, and promoting investment in new technologies.
Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) also cosponsored the resolution, bringing the total to 11.