Discussion about climate change from conservative voices has been all over the map.  On one edge of the conversation, we have former President Donald Trump saying “I think global warming is a hoax. It’s a money-making industry, okay? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.” 

On the other end are legislators who think we need to stop arguing with the thermometer and face the reality: We are experiencing the economic impact of drought, crop loss, wildfire damage, more severe storms, and property loss to name a few. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, told reporters he does believe in human-caused climate change and believes we should address it in a way “consistent with American values and American capitalism” using technology and innovation. The importance of preserving and stewarding the environment for future generations is comfortably at home within the conservative movement. This mindset is at the core of conservative family values. 

My conservative economist friend thinks that when fellow conservatives realize that climate solutions that line up with their own values do exist, they will come around to acknowledging the problem. He cites Carbon Fee and Dividend as a policy that does not grow the size of government, is not regulatory based, and uses the power of the free market to increase growth and innovation while reducing carbon emissions quickly and effectively.

Commitment to the environment and the economy can coexist together. Some of the original co-authors of this policy are well known former conservatives such as Secretary of State James Baker, Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulsen, and Secretary of State George Schultz.

Young conservatives are an upcoming force to be reckoned with. A good point was made by U.S. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah: “I believe strongly that if Republicans don’t make (climate change) an issue, we will lose the upcoming generation of Republicans. The upcoming generation will not be patient with us. This is a deal-breaker for them. They’ll leave the Republican Party over this one issue.”

To add credence to this line of thought, Benji Backer, founder of American Conservation Coalition said after the recent GOP presidential candidate debate: “Young people will never vote for a candidate that does not believe in climate change. We’re not going away; we are normalizing this as part of the Republican conversation.  Republicans deserve to lose if they are climate deniers and don’t have a plan.”

 Here is why conservative voices are so important for all at the climate change policy table:

Long-Term Sustainability: Climate change policies need to be durable and adaptable to changing political landscapes. Involving conservatives in crafting these policies can help ensure that they are designed to withstand shifts in political power and remain effective over the long term.

Economic Considerations: Conservative perspectives often prioritize economic growth and fiscal responsibility. Integrating these concerns into climate policies can lead to strategies that minimize negative economic impacts while still advancing environmental goals.

Policy Innovation: Conservative voices can contribute fresh ideas to the climate change conversation. When conservatives engage in climate dialogue, there is potential for different viewpoints leading to innovative policy proposals that align with conservative principles, such as market-based solutions, individual freedoms, and limited government intervention.

Technological Innovation: Conservative voices can encourage the exploration and support of technological solutions to climate challenges. Emphasizing research and development of clean energy technologies can align with conservative values of innovation and enterprise.


Public Support: Climate policies with broad political support have a better chance of garnering public acceptance and avoiding polarization. If conservatives are actively involved in shaping climate policies, the resulting initiatives are more likely to enjoy widespread endorsement, which is crucial for effective implementation.

Local Solutions: Conservatives often emphasize the importance of local governance and individual states’ rights. This perspective can lead to the promotion of region-specific climate solutions that better reflect the needs and values of different communities.

Conservative legislative voices in the climate change conversation are crucial for fostering bipartisan support, designing effective policies, and ensuring long-term sustainability of efforts to address this global challenge. I encourage you, regardless of affiliation, to contact your member of Congress, regardless of their affiliation, to reach across the aisle and work on climate change policy solutions that align with our shared values of responsibility to future generations.  If you don’t have a seat at the table, you don’t have influence.

Susan Atkinson lives in Durango.

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Susan Atkinson lives in Durango.