Senators Smith, Whitehouse, Schatz, and Bennet questioning the witnesses in yesterday’s climate hearing.

Yesterday the members of the Senate Democrats Special Committee on the Climate Crisis interviewed Republican witnesses during a hearing about how Democrats might reach out to conservatives on the issue of climate change. No Republican senators participated and committee chair Senator Brian Schatz drove the point home in his opening statement:

Today we continue to build the case that climate action is doable and not the exclusive domain of progressives. But right now Democrats don’t have a dance partner on climate action in the United States Senate. Our Republican colleagues have chosen not to be here.

Witnesses for the hearing included: 

  • Dr. Frank Luntz, Founder and CEO, FIL, Inc. and a veteran Republican pollster
  • Kiera O’Brien, Vice President of Students for Carbon Dividends at Harvard
  • Nick Huey, Founder of the Climate Campaign

While each witness had a different suggestion for how Democrats can best communicate climate change to unlikely constituencies, it was Dr. Lutz who came prepared with a graphic detailing specific word swaps:

The Overall Message: When it comes to talking climate, the left was advised to talk about the opportunities that can exist to better our nation rather than what the worst-case scenario might be. Additionally, the witnesses suggested that listening to conservatives who are willing to talk about climate change goes a long way, and creating dialogue where it can exist can lead to political action (like on a price on carbon). Listening to businesses and their needs was also a big theme, which was timely just as some of the largest automakers announced yesterday that they have been working with the state of California on emissions regulations despite President Trump’s regulatory rollbacks.

Why This Matters: This hearing was incredibly respectful and senators Schatz, Smith, Whitehouse, Heinrich, and Bennet truly took the time to listen to the witness panel and ask thoughtful questions. While there was a lot of talk of reaching across the aisle, extending a hand, and inviting colleagues to the table the stark reality was that those colleagues chose not to attend yesterday’s hearing. Certainly, there are republicans in the Senate who acknowledge climate change but when the Senate Majority Leader has committed to blocking any legislation that Democrats put forward it seems as if bipartisanship is DOA. Hopefully, the fact that young Republicans view climate change with urgency will mean that partisanship on climate won’t always be an issue.

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