The climate crisis demands a left-right consensus that transcends politics.
The apolitical anger of climate change has never been more apparent than it is today, raising the question: How can we forge a non-ideological consensus to address the climate emergency?
The notion of a bipartisan crusade against the ravages of climate change in a hyper-polarized America might sound positively quaint, especially with a Republican Party that still largely denies the seriousness — or, in some cases, the existence — of the climate crisis. . But in a country where none of the major parties have been able to maintain unified power for more than one congress cycle since 2007, what is the alternative?
The nation is under attack from an enemy who does not distinguish between races, creeds, religions or political affiliations. The ravages of climate change are coming for all of us.
The urgency of the climate crisis does not allow Pollyanna to harbor any illusions about a wave of progressive politics that would quickly usher in an era of aggressive climate policies. And even in the highly unlikely event of sustained and unified democratic governance, recent history offers little assurance that Democrats would embrace the far-reaching agenda necessary to ward off the worst effects of climate change. Indeed, the Democratic Party, at both the national and state levels, has more than its fair share of climate incrementalists and outright apologists for the fossil fuel industry. Sen. Joe Manchin may be the bogeyman of climate activists, but he’s far from alone among Democrats bowing to petrochemical interests.
So where are we? Perhaps the answer is to reframe the need for urgent climate action in the most American way: as action that puts love of country above all else.
This is not just a marketing strategy, but an approach guided by the undeniable facts of climate change. The nation is under assault from an enemy – albeit of our own making – that does not distinguish between races, creeds, religions or political affiliations. The ravages of climate change are coming for all of us.
In such circumstances, the only rational response is one that encourages alliances that transcend our broken politics and reject the apocalyptic path of denial, accommodation and incremental reform. The new climate patriot could be of any political persuasion and could be as easily motivated by self-interest as by altruism. The unifying call to arms is simple: Save America.
Such a patriotic clarion call is hardly hyperbolic given the near-apocalyptic wildfires, water shortages, hurricanes and other climate change-induced disasters that now populate our news feeds. And there is precedent for bipartisan support for landmark environmental policy, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency under Richard Nixon and a Democrat-controlled Congress. Yes, the country and our politics have changed dramatically since then, but the world we inhabit and the unparalleled threat we face has also changed.
The new climate patriot could be of any political persuasion and could be as easily motivated by self-interest as by altruism. The unifying call to arms is simple: Save America.
In a month of February Political editorial, former GOP representatives Ryan Costello and Francis Rooney say a critical step in forging a new bipartisan consensus on climate change is for philanthropic groups and environmental organizations to actively engage center-right communities. “(T)he climate movement has done far too little to lay the groundwork for bipartisan action… (missing) an opportunity to build a larger tent and (delaying) climate elevation as a bipartisan priority,” write -they. “But without genuine engagement from the environmental movement, it becomes easy for our fellow Republicans to dismiss the issue as a liberal concern rather than a challenge we all face.”
Costello and Rooney may be outliers, but they’re not the only ones. Actually, recent survey shows higher support among younger Republican voters than older ones for more aggressive climate action. Growing Conservative concern about climate change has led to some changes in the way Republicans talk about the issueeven if the party as a whole still opposes the kind of radical change in policy needed to deal with the crisis.
Some military veterans have already begun to make the fight against climate change a patriotic duty, while Democratic Senator Dick Durbin has law Project that would allow Americans to buy bonds that finance the fight against climate change. These leaders and others understand that appealing to the patriotic instincts of conservatives and liberals could neutralize those who block the rapid transition to a clean energy economy that the climate crisis demands. It might remind us of times in our history when the nation came together to face a common enemy. And it could break the impasse that jeopardizes our future.