The Democratic victory in January’s Georgia Senate runoffs should be a wake-up call for the entire Republican Party. The lack of interest by conservatives in addressing climate change is concerning not just for the climate’s future, but for the future of the party as well.

I was in Georgia right before the election as part of a group of college students from Washington, California, Ohio, Tennessee and Florida, there to knock on doors and encourage Georgians to go to the polls and vote for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Many voters I encountered said that they refused to vote for Republicans because the party as a whole “doesn’t believe in climate change.” 

According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 70% of Georgians believe global warming is happening, and 65% believe global warming will harm future generations. And, according to The Conservation Coalition’s polling data from Georgia, 88% of voters ages 18 to 34 say climate is important to them when voting. 

By neglecting to propose climate solutions for everyday Americans, Republicans missed an opportunity to recapture the state and the Senate. Considering the rapidly aging Republican voting bloc, and how young conservatives’ concerns are often largely ignored at the state and national levels by elected officials, this is especially concerning. Republicans should take their defeat in Georgia as a learning opportunity — a chance to rearrange their platform in order to accommodate younger voters and think about the longevity of the party. 

And it is not just Georgians who yearn for a solution to climate change. According to Gallup, 70% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are worried a great deal about climate change — and over 50% believe that global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime. 

The current lack of interest from the Republican Party in addressing this significant issue facing voters is concerning for the future of the party and of the country. Republicans need to create a united front against climate change.

While there are a number of Republicans who care about climate and have unique approaches, there is yet to be a comprehensive strategy from the top levels of the Republican Party. There is no perfect solution to climate change, but there are a number of Republicans who have realistic, free-market solutions to climate change. 

For instance, some Republican members of Congress advocate for legislation favorable to the free markets and preserving the environment. The two are not mutually exclusive, and actually stand equally as conservative principles, relying on the markets to address the most pressing issues of the time.

For example, Rep. Peter Meijer’s campaign website tackles the conservation question from an economic approach, arguing that it is more cost-effective to address climate today than try to clean up tomorrow. 

Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s approach recognizes innovation in the energy industry is important to produce energy sources that are more environmentally friendly so the world can enjoy American exports of “cleaner and cheaper energy.”

Some Republicans, misguidedly, believe that those who vote based on climate are an unwinnable Democratic stronghold. But this just isn’t true. Young people, and especially young conservatives, are concerned about the planet’s future. We consistently do our part to save the planet, ranging from organizing trash cleanups, to calling our representatives to advocate for important legislation pertaining to the environment. 

Young people are passionate about the environment. Preserving our parks, oceans and forests is not a political issue, it is an issue that should speak to everyone. It is the responsibility of Republicans to listen if we want to win elections ever again. Republicans must understand that to young voters, conservation is the future of conservatism. 

Caitlin O'Dell is a sophomore political science student at Gonzaga and a member of the American Conservation Coalition. 

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