“The Republican party was with me, Ronald Reagan was with me,” said former Republican congresswoman Claudine Schneider in a recent phone interview. In 1988 Schneider, then representing Rhode Island in the U.S. House of Representatives, introduced a bill to fight climate change. But since those days of congressional bipartisanship and conviviality, the Republican party has shifted to a steadfast rejection of the issue, in part at least in response to pressures and financing from fossil fuel interests.
This month’s Yale Climate Connections “This Is Not Cool” video by independent videographer Peter Sinclair addresses how some conservatives’ views on climate are changing.
Polling reveals that the vast majority of Americans believe in climate change and young conservatives are trying to shift their party’s narrative coming from national politicians. But it’s difficult to change the mind of a base that has consumed false narratives for decades.
According to Stuart Stevens, a long-time Republican campaigner affiliated with the Lincoln Project and a frequent cable television pundit, “It is a short walk from climate denial, to ‘Why should we wear masks?’ to anti-vaccine …. You have an information infrastructure that presents this alternate reality.”
Gale Sinatra, who studies the psychology of climate change beliefs at the University of Southern California, says that rather than admitting mistakes, many conservative voices are trying to move on without explaining why their past positions on climate change have shifted. “No one likes to admit a mistake,” she said.
What change there is among conservatives is happening quietly and incrementally, in some cases under pressure from youthful conservative Republicans. Conservative investment funds are divesting from fossil fuels and some Republican politicians, particularly at the local level, more and more are speaking in favor of climate action.
“We have no time to mess around,” says former Congresswoman Schneider “There’s still so much more to do.”