Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on not just what to do about human-caused climate change — and whether it even exists.
But there exists a lesser-known yet probably more important cleavage when it comes to defining the climate positions of future elected GOP officials. It is the gap between older and younger GOP voters.
According to a new survey released by the Pew Research Center on Monday, millennial GOP voters — those born between 1981 and 1996 — disagree with their older partisan counterparts across a range of energy and environmental issues. Younger Republicans disagree with their older partisan counterparts on the extent to which climate change is already affecting the world.
This new survey, and others, suggest that tomorrow's Republican Party, writ large, will think and talk about climate change in a starkly different way from today's GOP — whose leader, President Trump, along with many Republican members of Congress, have repeatedly dismissed the findings of climate science as a hoax.
But the shift will probably fall short of bringing the GOP into perfect alignment with Democrats on climate change, if the Pew study is any indication. Republicans, both young and old, distrust the government to solve the problem.
According to the survey, about 45 percent of younger Republican voters say they see some of the effects of global climate change in their communities, whereas only a third of older GOP voters feel the same way. A majority of GOP millennials — 59 percent — said they see at least some effect of climate change somewhere in the United States.
Similarly, 36 percent of GOP voters say the planet is warming because of human activity — a position supported by the vast majority of the scientific community. Only half that percentage of baby boomers in the GOP, born between 1946 and 1964, said the same to surveyors.
On energy issues, Republican millennials are vastly less supportive than the older generation of GOP voters of expanding coal mining (43 percent vs. 71 percent), hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" (47 percent vs. 68 percent) and offshore oil and natural gas drilling (44 percent vs. 75 percent).
While many political pundits think young voters are more motivated by climate change, that extra enthusiasm is really only seen among Republicans, according to Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, who has conducted his own separate surveys on U.S. opinion on climate change.
"There is a common wisdom out there that younger people care more about climate change than older people." Leiserowitz said. "We have looked and looked and looked and looked, and we've never found the evidence for that in our survey data."
"But one exception to that," he added, "is among Republicans, and that young Republicans tend to have more engaged views of climate change."
That gap between younger and older GOP voters, however, exists when it comes to the causes and consequences of climate change. But the rift narrows when GOP voters are asked what to do about global warming, Pew found.
Across generations, Republicans are skeptical of government policies aimed at mitigating the causes and effects of climate change. Millennial and baby boomer in the GOP generally agree, for example, that policies aiming at reducing the effects of climate change make no difference for the environment (44 percent vs. 45 percent).
On this and other questions about policy solutions, "you're not seeing significant differences by generation among Republicans," said Cary Funk, Pew's director of science and society research and lead author of the report.
At the moment, many Republicans are hesitant to take proactive action to stem climate change in any aggressive way. “Climate change occurs no matter what,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now House speaker, said in 2014. "The question is, can and should the federal government do something about it. And I would argue the federal government, with all its tax and regulatory schemes, can't."
That distrust of government intervention means climate policies from future Republican leaders will likely be quite different from Democratic ones.
They may look like a recent proposal from a group of senior GOP statesmen — including former treasury secretaries James A. Baker, Henry Paulson and George P. Shultz — to impose a national carbon tax in exchange for getting the government out of the way elsewhere by rolling back other emissions regulations. That tradeoff is popular with some economists, including Democrats like former National Economic Council director Lawrence H. Summers, while irking some environmental groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council.
One of the areas of agreement between survey respondents of both parties was on the expansion of wind and solar power. Large majorities among both Democrats and Republicans favor building more wind turbine farms (91 percent and 79 percent) and solar panel farms (93 percent and 84 percent).
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...drip... The EPA and the White House looked to block the release of a federal study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis after an administration aide said it would lead to a “public relations nightmare,” Politico reports, citing newly disclosed emails. The study would assess a class of toxic chemicals in water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites and would reveal that “the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe,” Politico reports. But three months after one Trump aide warned of negative public reaction to the report, the draft study is still unpublished and the administration says it has no scheduled release date.
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- Axios holds an event on Infrastructure Week.
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- The House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on technology to address climate change on Wednesday.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a legislative hearing on Wednesday.
- The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment holds a hearing on “Legislation Addressing New Source Review Permitting Reform” on Wednesday.
- The National Press Club holds an event with former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday.
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- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission holds a meetingon Thursday.
- U.S. Energy Association holds an event on a carbon sequestration partnership on Thursday.
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