02.28.2020

Climate advocates say they're more welcome at CPAC

‘Seeing a shift’ For the most part, the eco-right and skeptic sides of the GOP kept to themselves. Unlike in previous years, CPAC did not organize its exhibit hall to put their booths next to each other. The groups favoring climate policies focused their efforts largely on young people, a major contingent at CPAC. Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends and the American Conservation Coalition each hosted happy-hour events, with the latter attended by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), sponsor of the GOP’s tree-planting bill, H.R. 5859. The climate activist groups think they’re winning the battle. “The future of the conservative movement is acting on climate change with conservative solutions,” Benji Backer, president of ACC, told E&E News. “You’re seeing a shift, with even the top Republicans in the country wanting to do something on climate change now. Two years ago, they would never have even considered it.” After ACC participated in the confab last year, conservative columnist Kevin Mooney labeled the group “liberal environmentalists” and accused it of having “infiltrated” the event. Kiera O’Brien, president of Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends, said she recognizes that advocating for carbon taxes goes against the grain at CPAC. “Our policy is certainly new to some people, but we’ve had a surprising number of people who have heard of our policy or who are at least thinking about climate in a critical manner,” she said. O’Brien said she’s “been having a lot of conversations with young people” who want the GOP to have its own climate agenda. “It’s all about changing hearts and minds,” she said. “And that is our victory.” Conservative climate activists are feeling more welcome at CPAC than they have been in the past. “I really felt like the odd one out a couple years ago, much more so than today,” said Bozmoski. “We’re having a discussion about what to do, not about whether or not to do something.”

‘What are they doing here?’

But climate skeptics think they’re winning, too. They point to Trump’s repeated skepticism on climate, his policy rollbacks and the unpopularity of Democratic proposals like the Green New Deal. Marc Morano, director of communications at the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, said carbon taxes — a main policy preference for many conservative climate activists — will never win in the GOP. It’s “dead on arrival,” he said. “I don’t think young people will be drawn in by ‘let’s give a massive new power to tax, but we’ll control it and we’ll rebate it,'” said Morano, whose group exhibited at CPAC. “There’s no way young people looking at it from a free-market perspective are going to believe it.” Steve Milloy, the author of the JunkScience.com blog, when told that a number of conservative climate groups were at the confab, asked, “What are they doing here?” “My view of those guys is that they’re trying really hard to manufacture a reality that anybody cares about them. Trump has 95% Republican approval, so I kind of view Inglis and those guys as 2% or 3%,” said Milloy, who worked on the Trump EPA transition team. He acknowledged that young people are more likely to heed the “disinformation” activists push. But he was confident his side is winning and will continue to do so. “As people grow older and learn things, not everyone is going to become a skeptic, but enough will.” This article appeared on the E&E news website at https://www.eenews.net/stories/1062467381]]>

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