The U.S. Needs to Broaden Bi-partisanship on Climate Change

According to a new survey conducted by three Republican pollsters, Echelon Insights, North Star Opinion Research, and Public Opinion Strategies, found that only 54 percent of Republicans believe climate change is real and mankind plays a role in it.

A study from July 2015 conducted by the Pew Research Center put those numbers much lower, at 27 percent for Republicans who believe climate change is real and man-made, compared to 71 percent of Democrats, and 87 percent of scientists who are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Congressman Gutierrez (D-IL) believes its a reflection of the Republican Party and their propensity to remain stagnant on important issues that call for legislative action."There's plenty of information, scientific information, that human beings are causing climate change, that's it's an issue we must address, that mother earth needs our attention," said Rep. Gutierrez in a phone interview. "The pope knows it when he came to see us. He said 'the planet belongs to all of us and we should be good caretakers.' What do the Republicans say? 'It's a hoax, we're not going to do anything.'"

Some leaders in the Republican Party have begun to recently speak up in favor of taking action on climate change. A North Carolina Businessman, Jay Faison, a self-proclaimed Conservative Republican has spent $165 million on ClearPath, a non-profit foundation aimed at promoting climate change initiatives that would appeal to Republicans, with plans to donate another $10 million to lobby for these policies. U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Former New York Governor George Pataki, among a few other notable leaders in the Republican Party have broken from the status quo of their party's opposition to linking Climate Change to human activity,

Though the scientific evidence for climate change and the link with human uses of fossil fuels is widely accepted in scientific communities, there remains a stark polarization on the issue between both political parties.

"I think that in the house setting itself, the contrast of how our Democratic Caucus approaches these issues compared to the Republican Majority caucus, is our approach is about an all of the above strategy, diversity in the fuel mix, accepting not only the reality of climatechange, but working to impact human inspired climate change outcomes," said U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) in a phone interview. Congressman Tonko serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Prior to serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was President and CEO of New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), and served in the New York State Assembly from 1983 to 2007. "We contrast that with a "drill baby drill" mentality of the Republican Majority Caucus. Drill more, wherever you can offer the opportunity and a heavy reliance on fossil based fuels, on oil and the continuation of coal."

The Paris Climate Conference, which takes place from November 30th to December 11th, provides a great opportunity for the U.S. to affirm their status as a leader when it comes to enacting climate change initiatives. Over 190 countries will be attending to discuss a possible new agreement on climate change to avoid the dangerous threats scientists are predicting will happen if the current trends continue. Making climate change a more bi-partisan issue leading up to the Paris Climate Conference could serve as a catalyst to get the international community to agree on a response, but there remains a lot of ground to cover to depoliticize climate change. Rep. Tonko emphasizes the need for dialogue between parties to come up with solutions. "I think we need to hear about ways we can transition or transform energy outcomes, and equating that to a smarter, perhaps more cost saving outcome," he said. "We can do this by relating to one another that sound stewardship of the environment and creating jobs aren't diametrically opposed, but that they are often addressed in tandem."

The Trans-Pacific Partnership also provides an opportunity for the U.S. to assert its leadership in global action on climate change. Negotiations between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim Nations recently came to a conclusion after eight years, but President Obama faces a tough fight to secure ratification from congress due to the alleged shortfalls of the pact from both parties. Environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, GreenPeace, Friends of Earth, and many others have criticized the agreement on its potential threats to the environment.

"I'm concerned that without across the board equal standards for environmental outcomes, it can setback the international effort," added U.S. Rep. Tonko. "We need to make environmental stewardship and environmental standards part of the overall agreements so that we're working on a level playing field and actually using trade opportunities to grow the carbon emission reduction agenda as significantly as we can."