Some Republicans, including elected officials who say they are seeing the real-life effects of climate change in the areas they represent, are pushing their party to re-think the way they handle the issue. And that starts with changing how they talk about it.
While some of those Republicans say the party’s full acceptance of the science is still far off, the only way to get there will be to speak the language of conservatives.
“You can’t lead off with ‘climate change’ with most Republicans,” Debbie Dooley, president of Conservatives for Energy Freedom and of the Green Tea Coalition, a collection of clean energy advocates that includes tea partiers, like Dooley, told BuzzFeed News. “The message you use is freedom, market, national security, fiscally responsible. … Republicans are absolutely receptive to that.”
“If you mention ‘climate change’ to a Republican they’re not going to hear another thing you said.”
Part of the issue is credibility, Rep. Ryan Costello said. The Pennsylvania Republican, who is a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, said that fellow Republicans who are outspoken on environmental issues are in the best position to convince their colleagues.
“Oftentimes, it’s the credibility of the messenger,” Costello said, arguing that both Republican members and conservative media have a major role to play in addressing the issue. “You have to look at what that person’s other policy positions are in order to establish credibility on the issue.”
He added that some environmentalists are very “aggressive” in their advocacy, which may not resonate well with Republicans. “I think it’s the sort of issue that the more you try and press and put it on somebody’s front burner, the more tuned out they may get,” Costello said.