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Will Republican Climate Change Proposals Work?

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As conservative opinion shifts, lawmakers like Matt Gaetz and Lamar Alexander have put forward solutions that focus on “innovation” at the expense of regulation.

The Republican Party‘s stance on climate change has been shifting. Prominent conservatives who once might have been labeled climate deniers have begun acknowledging the reality that our climate is changing. Though not all have accepted the role of humans in causing that change, many now say that human action must be a part of the solution, releasing conservative climate policies to counter environmental policies from the left, including the Green New Deal.

Whereas Democratic plans focus on government regulation of the oil and gas industries, Republican plans tend to center on technological innovations to combat global warming. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) called his plan, which focuses on solutions like investment in carbon-capture technology, the “Green Real Deal.” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) has called for a “new Manhattan Project” for clean energy, proposing large-scale investment in carbon capture, electric vehicles, and green buildings. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) has said he would support legislation to combat climate change with “energy innovation.”

Indeed, innovation is a recurring theme so far in Republicans‘ approaches to climate policy. The conservative lawmakers know their audience: Different types of messaging on climate change are more convincing for conservatives than those that typically appeal to left-leaning voters. Research shows that messaging that focuses on the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists doesn’t persuade conservatives to back climate action, but focusing on free-market solutions to climate change does. Unsurprisingly, many Republicans tend to take the view that technological innovations will solve the climate crisis, while stricter regulations will only serve to stymie progress and threaten the economy.

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