Developing the Climate Solutions Conversation

Developing the Climate Solutions Conversation

We are in a new phase of the climate conversation. While ongoing efforts to reject climate science are to be expected, there is greater emphasis on climate impacts and how to respond.

It truly is a crossroads moment. 2014 was the hottest year on record and the year when the solar industry outpaced coal in terms of job creation in the U.S. Alongside these trends, public opinion in 2014 showed Americans now support expanding renewable energy development on par with support for increasing Americans oil, gas and coal production. 

In the State of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama was pointed on climate and dropped mention of an “all of the above” energy policy, perhaps signaling a willingness to broaden the debate around what energy security really means for Americans. At the same time, the fight over the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline to the economy versus its impact on the climate continues, illustrating the influence the oil and gas sector holds.

The solutions space is complex and while there are opportunities to build on the excitement around the innovation that is taking place, it has already become a new battleground with efforts to roll back solar, wind, energy efficiency and other policies underway in many states, including CaliforniaIt is time to sort out how to navigate this new terrain where alongside this opposition, there is growing from some conservatives to discuss the viability of economic policies that address carbon emissions.

Political ideology still rules when it comes to climate and energy issue. For example, while support for expanding renewables is strong overall, Democrats still overwhelming support renewables over fossil fuel developments yet with Republicans it is the reverse. 

Recent research from Yale, however, suggests that you cannot however, assume all conservatives and/or Republicans have the same views. More liberal/moderate Republicans tend to accept the threat of climate change, while conservative Republicans do not and Tea Party members even less so.

When it comes to support for renewables and efficiency there is some evidence that common ground can be found with different conservative audiences, as well as with liberals. Americans largely support the idea that increasing efficiency and moving to renewables can save money, create jobs, generate economic opportunity, as well as deliver other benefits such as self-reliance, and access to clean energy for homes and businesses. 

While political partisanship remains an obstacle for implementing strong climate policies, Americans are becoming more aware of the risks that climate change poses to our communities and of the advantages of an innovative and robust clean energy industry. Climate communicators have an opportunity to seize this growing bipartisan support to show that viable energy solutions not only already exist, but are thriving job creators in the U.S. economy.


image via flickr (cc) David Clarke