What do climate change policies with "conservative values" look like?
A group of Republicans, led by Utah Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), is laying out that vision. On Wednesday, Curtis introduced the new Republican-only Conservative Climate Caucus, aimed at educating fellow House lawmakers on climate policies that align with the GOP and reduce carbon emissions.
Two Indiana lawmakers, 4th district Rep. Jim Baird of West Central Indiana and 8th district Rep. Larry Bucshon of Southwest Indiana, join about 60 other House Republicans in the caucus.
"Republicans have conservative solutions to lower emissions while enhancing economic prosperity," Curtis said in a statement Wednesday. "We do care about climate – and we already have solutions and plan to find more."
Those solutions so far include continued reliance on fossil fuels and more private sector innovation. The group believes U.S. climate goals should focus on reducing emissions, "not reducing energy choices." And while they acknowledge that's a global issue, the group says China is "the greatest immediate obstacle to reducing world emissions."
"Proposals to reduce emissions and be good stewards of the earth do not have to hurt the American economy. In fact, they do the opposite," Curtis said in the statement. "There is a way to lower global emissions without sacrificing American jobs and principles – and I believe Republicans are the ones that can and should be leading the charge."
As one of the largest manufacturing and agricultural states, Indiana has long been a significant emitter of greenhouse gases. And as a result, it also stands to play a crucial role in the nation's fight against climate change.
In 2019, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) joined forces with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) to launch the Climate Solutions Caucus, the first-ever bipartisan Senate caucus dedicated to the issue. It now has 14 members. When forming their caucus, Braun and Coons had said climate change had become "too polarized, toxic and unproductive."
It's unclear if the new GOP-only group in the House will fuel or fight further gridlock, but Braun says he supports more members of his party getting involved in the issue.
“I support Republicans getting engaged in the climate discussion to oppose radical job-killers like the Green New Deal and instead craft realistic, common-sense, pro-jobs solutions," Braun told IndyStar in a statement.
Representatives Baird and Bucshon did not immediately respond to IndyStar's request for comment, but they have previously spoken out on the issue.
In an op-ed published earlier this month, Baird said there is a "real risk that climate change policy could create many challenges for the agriculture industry," which is a significant industry for his constituents in Indiana's 4th district. He called for the climate change issue to be "addressed correctly," with more sustainable agriculture, new technologies and adopting biofuels like ethanol.
Buschon has previously asserted that Democrats were using climate change "as a political tool." In 2014, Buschon told the then director of the White House Office of Science and Technology that he didn't believe climate scientists "whose careers depend on the climate changing," which Jon Stewart then highlighted on a segment of "The Daily Show."
'In the closet on climate'
The newly announced Conservative Climate Caucus reflects a changing wave in the GOP — and a break from former President Trump, who had previously called climate change "mythical" and an "expensive hoax" on his now-suspended Twitter account.
President Biden, on the other hand, has made tackling climate change a key part of his administration. He's signed several executive orders on the topic and included it in various plans and budget proposals, adding that it goes hand-in-hand with creating jobs.
“I think there have been a lot of Republicans in the closet on climate,” Braun told the Washington Post last year, also noting the importance of engaging young voters with meaningful climate legislation.
The senator also previously expressed admiration for climate activist Greta Thunberg, during a time when the former president antagonized the teen and while the Trump administration was actively trying to diminish efforts to fight climate change.
Hoosiers, including Republican voters, have been increasingly environmentally conscious in recent years. A statewide poll in September 2020 showed that a majority of Hoosiers view the environment as a top priority issue, behind only education and health care. Seven in 10 said both the state and federal government need to do more to address climate change.
On Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to pass the Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced by Braun and other senators. The bill, also co-sponsored by Indiana Senator Todd Young, provides incentives to farmers and foresters to implement sustainable practices that are believed to help capture carbon.
Now, the bill heads to the House floor for vote, where Baird has previously expressed support for the legislation.
Future of conservative climate action
Groups such as the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the American Conservation Coalition have expressed support for the Conservative Climate Caucus.
The executive director for nonprofit Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions has also supported the group, saying U.S. climate policy "must foster innovation and commercialization pathways that work for Indiana as well as for India."
As of Thursday afternoon, the group has grown to more than 60 GOP members.
reporters: Join The Scrub on Facebook