**The Republican Strategy to Address Climate Change: Planting a Trillion Trees**
As Speaker Kevin McCarthy visited a natural gas drilling site in northeast Ohio to promote House Republicans’ plan to sharply increase domestic production of energy from fossil fuels last month, the signs of rising global temperatures could not be ignored. Smoke from Canadian wildfires hung in the air. When the speaker was asked about climate change and forest fires, he was ready with a response: Plant a trillion trees.
**The Shift in Republican Thinking on Climate Change**
The Republican party’s stance on climate change has recently undergone a shift. They no longer deny that global warming exists but are searching for a response that allows them to continue supporting American-produced energy from burning oil, coal, and gas. Their new approach focuses on managing forests better and replacing Russian natural gas with American natural gas. Republicans believe that by doing so, they can create both a cleaner and safer world.
**Biden Administration’s Stance on Fossil Fuels**
The Biden administration has also shown support for fossil fuels. They have increased exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. President Biden acknowledges that coal, oil, and gas will remain part of America’s energy supply for years to come.
**The Controversial Solution: Planting a Trillion Trees**
The concept of planting a trillion trees as a solution to climate change has gained traction among Republicans. A 2019 study suggested that planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere could be an effective way to combat global warming. Major conservation groups and even former President Donald Trump embraced the idea. However, this approach has faced criticism from environmental scientists who view it as a distraction from reducing emissions from fossil fuels. It should be noted that planting one trillion trees would require a significant amount of space, and an excess of trees could potentially increase the risk of wildfires.
**The GOP’s New Approach: Incentivizing Timber Forest Growth**
In 2021, GOP lawmakers, led by Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman, endorsed a bill that promotes growing timber forests in the US as part of a global effort to plant one trillion trees. This bill aligns with the Republican agenda as it supports the timber industry and offers a climate solution by sequestering a massive amount of carbon from manmade emissions. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy plans to further expand energy production now that the Republicans have a slim majority in the House. He has made the “Lower Energy Costs Act” the primary legislative focus for the new GOP majority. This legislation aims to increase oil, gas, and coal production in the United States. Republicans argue that increasing domestic energy resources lowers energy prices, emissions, and improves energy independence.
**The Importance of Clean Energy and Permitting for Energy Projects**
While Republicans prioritize increasing fossil fuel production, they recognize the importance of clean energy as well. House Republicans and many Democrats have proposed measures to expedite permitting for energy projects, including those related to wind, solar, and geothermal power. They aim to emphasize that clean energy is also affordable, reliable, and crucial for a sustainable future.
**The Divisions within the Republican Party**
Not all Republicans agree on the need to address climate change. Rep. Scott Perry, who leads the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, alleges that the Biden administration’s climate agenda is tackling a problem that doesn’t exist. House Republicans have consistently pushed back against parts of Biden’s climate agenda, considering them expensive and burdensome. They have attempted to undo government incentives for clean energy projects and criticize investment strategies that consider environmental impact. Recently, they even moved to restrict the Department of Defense from using funds to implement the president’s executive orders on climate.
**Building Bridges: The Conservative Climate Caucus**
Despite these differences, there is a growing eagerness among Republicans to engage on the issue of climate change. Rep. John Curtis started the Conservative Climate Caucus two years ago, and it has now grown to include 84 Republicans, representing over one-third of the GOP conference. Curtis initiated the caucus because he found it challenging to respond to constituents’ questions about climate change in his district, which is known for its ski resorts and national parks. Recognizing the importance of not losing a generation of Republicans on this issue, Curtis hopes that by addressing climate change within his party, they can find common ground and work toward impactful solutions.