With Republican Candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy Calling Climate Change a Hoax, Just When Will the GOP Realize the Long-Term Consequences of Pushing Young Voters Away?
Article Written by Jett James Pruitt
August 23, 2023 was the day the Republican Party lost Generation Z.
Fox News personalities Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum hosted the first GOP Presidential Debate of the 2024 Election in Milwaukee, WI. During the debate, a video submitted by Christopher Diaz — a student attending Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. — played on live television. In the clip, Diaz asked the eight candidates on stage, “How will you as both President of the United States and leader of the Republican Party calm [Gen Z] fears that the Republican Party doesn’t care about Climate Change?”
Baier and MacCallum then proceeded to ask the contenders whether they believe climate change is caused by human behavior.
The group's initial response? Pure silence.
In fact, few candidates went on to even give a direct answer. For example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sidestepped the question entirely; former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley acknowledged climate change is real, but underplayed America's responsibility for carbon emissions; North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum criticized the use of renewable energy for its reliance on Chinese solar panels. And to spice it up, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy boldly declared:
“The climate change agenda is a hoax” — Vivek Ramaswamy
He later added, “The anti-carbon agenda is the wet blanket on our economy. More people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate.”
And to add insult to injury, Ramaswamy stated “Fossil fuels are a requirement for human prosperity” at the conclusion of the debate. Real inspiring.
This is a good time to make something absolutely clear: Generation Z will never fully support the Republican Party if it continues to insist the threat of climate change is not real or is exaggerated by the political Left.
In fact, a ten-nation study published in The Lancet found that close to 60% of 16 to 25-year-olds believe humanity is doomed from global warming. Furthermore, nearly 40% of respondents said that uncertainty about the future is making them reluctant to have children of their own.
A separate survey conducted in 2023 shows that 83% of Generation Z adults have at least some degree of concern about climate change and the environment.
If the Republican party wishes to compete with Democrats for the support of voters under the age of 30, then the GOP must offer free-market solutions designed to unleash American economic prosperity while simultaneously addressing global warming and climate change.
It needs to be made clear that we can achieve economic growth as a byproduct of combating the adverse effects of climate change, rather than ignoring the crisis in its entirety.
While the eight Republican candidates refused to say it on the debate stage, climate change is an existential threat to humanity and is fueled by industrial activity. Greenhouse gas emissions have increased 46% since the year 1750. This has caused the Earth’s atmosphere to become warmer, thereby melting glaciers and ice sheets in the North and South Poles.
In addition to melting glaciers, warmer air temperatures contribute to thermal expansion, a process that increases the total volume of ocean water. As a result, sea levels are slowly rising around the world, with the ocean expected to increase as much as 19 inches from 2021 to 2050.
This is incredibly alarming, as the World Economic Forum (WEF) projects that an estimated 410 million people will be affected by rising sea levels by 2100. Major cities such as Miami, Florida; Guangzhou, China; New York City, New York; Kolkata, India; and Shanghai, China will face catastrophic floods if we do not alter our course.
In the United States, rising sea levels will disrupt coastal ecosystems that provide recreation, refugee from storms, and habitat for aquatic life. Grimly, more than 40 American cities, including New Orleans, Louisiana, are expected to experience flooding and land loss due to rising ocean levels over the next several decades. Considering that an estimated 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in high-density coastal areas, rising sea levels may force tens of millions of residents to relocate inland.
Aside from rising sea levels, higher carbon emissions are intensifying heatwaves and wildfires. The past eight years have been the warmest on record. In fact, the average global temperature in 2022 was nearly 1.15 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (i.e., between 1850-1900).
Commenting on the implications of this temperature spike, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas told reporters: “In 2022, we faced several dramatic weather disasters which claimed far too many lives and livelihoods and undermined health, food, energy, and water security and infrastructure. Large areas of Pakistan were flooded, with major economic losses and human casualties. Record breaking heatwaves have been observed in China, Europe, North and South America. The long-lasting drought in the Horn of Africa threatens a humanitarian catastrophe.”
As a person who identifies as an independent, progressive conservative, I must ask the question:
Is this really the future the GOP envisions for their children?
Are we really going to sit back and allow rising sea levels threaten to displace millions of citizens and submerge thousands of cities throughout the world? Are we really going to sit back and allow warmer temperatures to exacerbate natural disasters, resulting in thousands of casualties?
Granted, there has been some progress in reducing global carbon emissions. As reported by a M.I.T. Technology Review article published in January 2023, renewable sources are becoming more affordable and making up an increasing percentage of the world energy supply every year.
Additionally, industrialized nations are enacting new targets for emissions reductions and incentivizing the private sector to invest in more ecologically-sustainable technology. These measures have yielded tangible results in the fight against global warming.
The article notes that U.S. emissions peaked in 2005 and have fallen by more than 10% since then. Other economic powerhouses such as Japan, Russia, and the European Union have also experienced a plateau in carbon emissions. Overall, global emissions are projected to reach their peak in 2025, as per the International Energy Agency. However, this may prove to be too little, too late. The effects of climate change are no longer a hypothetical scenario of the future; it is now a grim reality facing real people in real time. While there is a way to reverse it, the time to act is now.
So, what are potential solutions to climate change that Republican voters can get behind? How do Republican strategists strike a balance between appealing to Gen Z voters concerned with global warming, while simultaneously promoting free-market principles?
The Answer: Let Innovation, Technology, and the Free-Market Combat Climate Change.
The GOP should guide our country to become the top developer of renewable energy and lead the United States to expand its resources, thereby forcing all power companies to compete with each other and develop better products for consumers. Let innovation be the driving force behind conceiving new technological processes and devices, further facilitating economic growth and unleashing American prosperity.
There are four key solutions Republicans must add to their platform: First, the GOP should propose paying fossil fuel companies to enter the renewable energy business. If the U.S. government offers lucrative contracts, corporations will expand operations. Second, conservative politicians should advocate for offering significant tax breaks (and possibly rebates) to U.S. corporations using green energy.
Providing benefits will incentivize companies to expand their enterprises into renewable energy, thereby creating jobs in the process. Next, members of the GOP should support instituting an Emissions Trading System. Under this scheme, the U.S. government will set a cap on the maximum level of carbon emissions a company is allowed to emit.
Then, an administrative agency (e.g., the EPA) will establish permits for each unit of carbon emissions allowed under the cap. The concept of emissions trading originated in the 1980s when it was successfully used in the United States to reduce concentrations of lead in gas, as well as to discourage sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions that cause acid rain.
Our government can model this scheme again to pressure corporations to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. While this may seem like a bad thing prima facie, it will ultimately encourage market innovation as companies will seek new technologies to reduce cost.
Finally, Republicans should advocate for the creation of government assistance accounts to help workers across the country adjust to job displacement caused by natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. Based on a plan developed by U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper for his 2020 Presidential Campaign, the federal government would establish a system of Individual Security Accounts (ISAs), which would be mobile accounts tied to particular individuals in vulnerable regions.
These accounts would help pay for training, relocation, and reeducation of workers if they and their families are displaced. The ISAs would be funded by a combination of government, worker, and employer contributions — similar to IRAs. Washington would then designate certain geographic areas that are especially affected by external factors (such as Florida) and dedicate more pre-tax funds to the ISAs of workers who reside in these regions.
My aforementioned suggestions only scratch the surface. Our role as a leading country is to find brilliant solutions to combat climate change that could be adopted by even the most fragile developing nations.
In short, there are a variety of climate change solutions that live in perfect alignment with the values and principles of the Republican Party. Until the GOP has leadership that recognizes its importance of the climate crisis and a candidate emerges that takes a strong stance against climate denial, the 9 million Gen Z citizens who will be voting for the first time in 2024 will most certainly be supporting the other team.
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Born on May 25, 2005, Jett James Pruitt is a Native American (Taino Arawak), Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of the bestselling book THROUGH THE EYES OF A YOUNG AMERICAN (2020). He is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheGenZPost.com, and is a political strategist specializing in Generation Z voting trends. His next book, THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE: What America's Political Parties Must Do To Win Over Generation Z, is due in major bookstores worldwide in March 2024.