A climatic shift

about 4 years ago

RepublicENs rejoiced at the release of new polling this week showing that contrary to what primary politics often implies, climate change realists don't stand alone. The poll, commissioned by North Carolina entrepreneur and ClearPath Foundation founder Jay Faison and conducted by three respected Republican pollsters provides an interesting and fresh snapshot of the electorate: 54 percent of conservative voters believe the climate is changing and human activity contributes to the problem. On the other end of the spectrum, the poll quantified at nine percent the number of conservatives saying they don't think the climate is changing.

"I think we've moved on from I'm not a scientist," noted Faison, a self-described conservative Republican who would like to see policymakers debate climate solutions, not climate science.

Yet not all the top tier candidates have absorbed the message points. "I don't believe in climate change," reasserted Donald Trump last week. Striking a similar tone, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson told reporters, "there is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused." Only the primary path to Election Day will tell if they are out of touch with the electorate. The ClearPath poll found even Republican voters who regard mankind's climate contributions as limited nonetheless believe human activity has a role.

While these poll numbers came as a surprise to some, it isn't so shocking if you listen closely to how the campaign rhetoric has shifted in recent months. At the last Republican debate, surging Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made clear the distinction that he's not a climate skeptic but rather is "skeptical of the decisions that the left wants us to make."

"In general I think Republicans are in favor of solutions, in favor of a better environment, without risking the economy," Faison surmised.

When it comes to climate science, Carly Fiorina takes the scientists at their word. "Scientists tell us that global warming is real and manmade," Fiorina told Glenn Beck earlier this week. She has long touted the importance of "innovation, not regulation" in addressing the problem.

"We have a responsibility to adapt to what the possibilities are without destroying our economy, without hollowing out our industrial core," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who believes human activity contributes to climate change.

Rubio, Fiorina and Bush are all in good company; 72 percent of conservative Republicans support a market-based solution to climate change over a top-down, government regulatory approach. In addition to its findings on climate change, the poll found 72 percent of Republicans – 68 percent of conservative Republicans – support action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States.

"I think there's a move that needs to be made toward accelerating what's already inevitable, which is a clean-energy transition that'll create jobs, safeguard our environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Faison said.

How the findings in this poll will resonate with the candidates remains to be seen, but clearly the political tide is shifting.