Conservatives claim climate activism in Miami



For Benji Backer, being conservative means believing in limited, market-based government solutions – and the scientists who say carbon emissions must be reduced to avoid the worst of climate change.

Mr. Backer’s nonprofit, the American Conservation Coalition (ACC), hosted what it touted as the nation’s first conservative climate rally in Miami, as part of an effort to the 23-year-old activist to convince other right-wing Americans that they are not doing it. must be liberal to support action on the issue.

It included a handful of South Florida Republican politicians facing climate threats including flooding from rising tides, stronger hurricanes and health risks from higher temperatures and humidity. .

“The environment does not have a favorite political party,” Mr. Backer said from a podium overlooking a bay near where the US Army Corps of Engineers proposed a $ 6 billion dike. “Today, the Conservatives are calling for our seat at the environment table.”

An avid ski and hiking enthusiast, Mr. Backer began organizing ACC as a freshman in college and was appalled by then-President Donald Trump, who said the climate change was a hoax created by the Chinese. The group said it hopes its membership, currently in the thousands, will increase to 10,000 by the end of this year.

Mr. Backer’s mission reflects a nuance in US climate policy that is often lost in partisan debate: While the Republican Party is seen as opposed to climate action, many of its members believe in global warming but are not. agree with the Liberals on how to fix it.

This is not a problem, however.

Environmentalists accuse Mr. Backer’s group of obstructing the aggressive climate action they believe is necessary to save the planet by offering half-measure, market-based solutions instead.

While the ACC supports parts of Democratic President Joe Biden’s climate plan, such as those that focus on innovation, from advances in nuclear power to carbon capture and storage, it also blames its proposals for ” to be inflated and not to “rationalize heavy regulations”.

Mr Biden’s administration hopes to decarbonize the U.S. economy by 2050 and the electricity sector by 2035, primarily by increasing the use of clean energy and electrifying vehicles and buildings.

The ACC platform only calls for moving “towards” net global carbon emissions by 2050, without meeting or exceeding the target. Rather than the mandates included in Mr. Biden’s plan, he favors “market solutions” to reduce greenhouse gases, such as building more wood buildings that store carbon, creating new global forests. in a “trillions of trees” program and increasing the use of zero-emission hydroelectricity.

“I don’t like warrants because they sometimes have a lot of unintended consequences by supporting some people at the expense of others,” said Emily Nielsen, a 29-year-old software engineer who attended the rally, which drew about 200 people.

“Conservatives are more concerned with encouraging innovation or voluntary actions to fight climate change,” she said.

Act now

But critics say measures backed by conservative groups like the ACC could delay progress on urgent measures needed to curb climate change.

“We have the technology to fight climate change today. We need to start acting now, ”said Julie McNamara, climate and energy program analyst at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists.

Carla Staver, ecologist and associate director of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, added that planting new forests may be a component of a comprehensive approach to climate change, but that the estimates of their climate impact put forward by some conservatives may be. optimistic.”

Another big sticking point for climate activists: the ACC does not support the imposition of a carbon levy, a market mechanism that would encourage investors to turn to cleaner sources of energy.

“An obsessive focus on innovation and policies that impose no cost on anyone are by definition policies that are inadequate for the job,” said Jerry Taylor, chairman of the Niskanen Center, a think tank moderate.

Mr Backer is hopeful that there will soon be hundreds of climate-conscious Republicans in Congress, up from dozens now, pointing to recent polls which show young party members are more open to tackling climate change than older ones. aged.

U.S. Representative Carlos Giménez of Florida, elected in 2020, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez were among Republicans who attended the rally.

For now, strong Republican support for the drilling and mining industries still weighs on conservative climate efforts. A few older participants at the rally were holding signs saying, “There is no climate crisis!

Mr Taylor said small steps could be as far as the party can go yet, given that many Republican lawmakers represent states with large fossil fuel industries.

“It just might be that that kind of little incrementalism is all that is really possible,” he said.

This story was reported by Reuters.

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