What is driving climate change? According to a recent Goucher poll, your answer to that question has a lot to do with whether you are a Democrat or a Republican.
You need to look no further than Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District to hear the political divide over the science that humans are mostly to blame for what is happening to the climate.
Representative Dutch Ruppersberger is the Democratic incumbent. Ruppersberger backs the Green New Deal, the non-binding resolution in Congress that says humans are the dominant cause of climate change and that the federal government needs to work toward zero carbon emissions.
“And when some of the best scientists in the world say this is happening, and look at how it’s happening,” Ruppersberger said. “This is the result of what happens when you don’t deal with the issue of climate change, and people refuse to acknowledge it and say no it’s not. Well, you know the earth is too precious.”
State Senator Johnny Ray Salling wants to win the Republican nomination to challenge Ruppersberger next year. Salling said climate change is happening for a variety of reasons.
“I think we can’t just pinpoint one thing, that’s all,” Salling said.
A recent poll by the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College found that 76 percent of Maryland Democrats believe climate change is caused mostly by human activity, compared to 44 percent of Republicans. Center director Mileah Kromer said a big reason for that is that for Republicans, the people who are talking about climate change, from former Vice President Al Gore to New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are a big political turnoff.
“If you are a rank and file Republican, you look at this and it is not a message that’s really speaking to you” Kromer said. “It’s a message that’s coming from the progressive left.”
Kromer said Republicans are not hearing much about climate change from the elite members of their party. Add to that the fact President Trump has called climate change a hoax.
Kromer also said nationwide Pew Research Center polling found that in the past six years, the number of Democrats who said they are concerned about climate change increased by 20 points.
“But among Republicans, it has stayed essentially the same,” Kromer said.
But among some young Republicans, that appears to be changing. Matt Resnik, the chair of the Stevenson University College Republicans, acknowledges climate change exists. He said because Republicans haven’t had much to say about the issue, Democrats have been able to define it, casting the GOP as being in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry.
“And that’s where it kind of killed us,” Resnik said. “We never took a big stance on this.”
The American Conservation Coalition is a college student driven organization that wants to change that, and get conservatives more engaged in environmental issues. Quill Robinson, the organization’s government affairs director, said the divide is more about age rather than political affiliation.
“If you talk to a lot of young Republicans, a lot of young conservatives, they accept the science and they want to do something about it,” Robinson said.
But what action to take leads to another political divide and it’s a classic: free markets versus government intervention. Robinson said private investments in technological advancements are key.
But there’s not enough time for that, according to Baltimore County Delegate Dana Stein, a Democrat and vice chair of the House Environment and Transportation Committee.
Stein said, “It requires governmental action to say that we are going to be very intentional about increasing the efficiency of our vehicles, of our buildings and of our energy system so that we reduce emissions substantially.”
Meantime, Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, is promising a plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030.