Are Republicans Preparing To Surrender The Global Warming Debate?

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Republicans have hired consultants to help them come up with unified talking points on global warming, according to a report by the Washington Examiner. But could this be the GOP giving up the climate debate?

“They’re going to try to drag their feet as long as possible, but there are certain things out there that could bring the predominant GOP position to light,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told the Examiner. “They want to at least have a unified position and they want to be able to have their ducks in a row. And if they have a solution, they want to have one that has the least impact on the economy.”

For months, The Daily Caller News Foundation has heard murmurs from sources of a potential GOP response to President Obama’s global warming agenda to help protect vulnerable moderate Republicans in future elections. There is no clear GOP climate plan yet, reports the Examiner, but a rough outline of what Republicans want is under the mantra that “tactics to reduce emissions should not harm the economy.”

Energy and environment issues have become more important in the last few years because of booming U.S. oil and natural gas production. Obama has also made tackling global warming a major plank of his final years in office, issuing a slew of new climate and energy rules to curb fossil fuel use and boost green energy production. The Examiner reported that Republicans hired polling expert Richard Thau to help them craft a strategy on global warming. The Examiner reports that one of Thau’s suggestions is to tout the “clean energy revolution” sparked by climate regulations.

The Examiner’s report comes after a recent poll that 57 percent of Americans don’t see global warming as a threat to their lives.

Republicans lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, have said they believe human activities cause the planet to warm, and that actions should be taken to reduce temperature rises. These Senators include Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Thune of South Dakota and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Democrats think that global warming is a winning issue for them in 2016, despite polling showing that environmental issues rank low on people’s minds during elections. Some Republicans agree that global warming could prove to be a problematic issue for them in the future.

“I think there will be a political problem for the Republican Party going into 2016 if we don’t define what we are for on the environment,” Graham told Roll Call last year. “I don’t know what the environmental policy of the Republican Party is.”

Republicans are also likely worried about a potential Senate run by San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer. The former hedge fund manager turned eco-activist has made his name opposing the Keystone XL pipeline and promoting regulations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Steyer has stated his interest in running for California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat when she retires in 2016.

Steyer has been a huge spending force for environmentalists. Last election alone Steyer spent $73 million of his own money supporting Democratic candidates and environmental causes. Steyer spent about $20 million defending Senate Democrats.

He was involved in seven Senate battleground elections, backing four losing candidates and three that won their races. But Steyer-backed ads run in battleground elections did not all focus on environmental issues. One ad ran against Iowa Republican Joni Ernst (rated false by Politifact) focused on a tax pledge and not the environment.

Still, a Steyer run could mean more funding for candidates who share his beliefs on energy and environment issues. Even so, Republicans are still looking to craft a new message on global warming.

“We’re in communication with a number of offices that are trying to figure out how this can work. They need to do it better than I did it. I pushed too hard, too fast, and you see what happened to me in the primary,” said former South Carolina Republican Rep. Bob Inglis, who lost his reelection primary in 2011 over his advocacy for global warming regulations.

A recent poll, however, shows that 57 percent of Americans don’t see global warming threatening their lives. Only 43 percent of Americans “expect global warming to threaten them,” according to a CNN poll.

“Meanwhile, only 50 percent of Americans believe global warming is caused by man-made emissions, while 23 percent say it’s caused by natural changes and 26 percent say it isn’t a proven fact,” CNN notes.

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