A small but growing number of Republican lawmakers are urging action on climate change, driven by shifting sentiment among GOP voters and the effects of global warming, from stronger hurricanes to more-destructive wildfires.
The group backs policies rooted in what they consider GOP principles, favoring market-based solutions rather than government regulations. Many are loyal supporters of President Trump, but they part with him on climate change, which he has dismissed as hyped.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida says the GOP needs to advance sound conservative proposals to combat climate change and embrace science, or risk long-term political damage.
“How can we as a party stand up to the generational challenges we face with globalization and automation and climate change if we don’t look credible to the body politic,” Mr. Gaetz said in an interview.
In April, Mr. Gaetz announced his “Green Real Deal” plan that seeks to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by fostering innovation and entrepreneurship and reducing government regulations on the development of clean-energy technology. His plan is a counter to the “Green New Deal” proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and others that involves large federal investments in buildings, industries and transportation systems to slash emissions.
Republican Rep. Garret Graves’s state of Louisiana depends on the oil-and-gas industry but is losing land partly as a result of sea-level rise. As the ranking minority member on the newly created House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, he has favored federally funded financial incentives for state and local investments in resiliency projects such as flood control.
“The conversation is certainly shifting toward not just acknowledging the threats of climate change, but starting to talk about policies and solutions,” said Ben Pendergrass, senior director of government affairs at Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan advocacy group that helped create the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus. The caucus, formed in 2016, has about two dozen Republican members.
Rep. Francis Rooney (R., Fla.), the new co-chairman of the caucus, joined Democrats in co-sponsoring a measure in January that would tax the carbon emissions of fuel producers and importers. That followed a carbon-tax bill filed last year by then-Rep. Carlos Curbelo(R., Fla.) that didn’t advance. Mr. Rooney also introduced a resolution in February that called for planning to mitigate the effects of sea-level rise.
Yet he and like-minded Republicans remain a small minority in the party. When the Democratically controlled House passed a resolution in May aimed at keeping the U.S. in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, from which Mr. Trump said he intended to withdraw, only three Republicans voted for it. And no Republicans have endorsed the Green New Deal.