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Young conservatives for climate concerns to be addressed by GOP

A series of surveys have found that millennial and Gen-Z Republicans are more concerned with the quality of the environment.
Young conservatives for climate concerns to be addressed by GOP
Posted at 1:24 PM, Jan 15, 2024

As the 2024 presidential election revs up, climate change is proving to be a point of concern for many voters — including young conservative voters.

"It routinely shows up as a top-three issue for the next generation," Chris Barnard, president of the American Conservation Coalition said.

A series of surveys has found that millennial and Gen-Z Republicans are more concerned with the quality of the environment, greenhouse gas emissions and alternative energy sources than their older GOP counterparts.

"To be conservative is to conserve. What's more conservative than conserving the beautiful lands and nature around us?" Barnard said.

Barnard is the president of the American Conservation Coalition, an environmental advocacy organization focused on limited-government, conservative approaches to environmental issues. He says getting the Republican party's engagement on these concerns hasn't been easy.

"I think for the last few decades at least, conservatives didn't like the left's solution to environmental problems. They thought it was expensive," Barnard said. "And I think conservatives fell into that trap. They said, we don't like the Green New Deal. We don't like this kind of left-wing, big government approach to climate change. So we're just going to say that climate change is not real at all. And obviously, that's not a reflection of the science, it's not a reflection of the reality."

Barnard says some conservative approaches to tackle climate change include: investing in nuclear energy, fast-tracking approval for clean energy projects, decreasing our dependence on other countries for minerals and empowering farmers and ranchers to conserve their lands.

"And the way that we do that is through American innovation, through empowering entrepreneurs, through making sure that we use our domestic resources, through technological improvement," Barnard said.

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He says that more Republican lawmakers have begun getting involved in environmental policy discussions and taking action, but notes there is still a bit of a disconnect between some in the party and young voters.

"We do still see a gap between where young people want to see them lead and where they are. I think we've seen that most on the presidential debate stage. We've seen candidates kind of be wishy-washy about it. They've not been willing to tackle it head on for the most part," Barnard said. "And frankly, there's still a gulf between where young people want them to be, including young conservatives."

So, can that gap be bridged?

"Young conservatives really do want action on climate change," Bob Inglis, a former U.S. Representative from South Carolina said.

Inglis is the executive director of RepublicEn, a conservative environmental organization. Its slogan is "We are the EcoRight, a balance to the Environmental Left."

Inglis says connecting with younger voters on these issues is not only possible, but crucial if they are to be effectively addressed.

"Young conservatives are key to getting this done not just by their own votes, but by their ability to persuade granny and grandpa to get in on this and to think about the future," Inglis said.

Ultimately, Inglis says the concerns of young conservatives and their thoughts on possible solutions need to be included in policy conversations if we are to tackle climate change.

"I think there's some awareness on the left that, you know what these solutions so far, the clean energy things, they're powerful, but they're not going to complete the job because you're not getting the whole world in on it yet. And so you need some people right of center to join this," Inglis said.

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