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Politics & Government

Young Republicans And Climate Change


For Democrats, climate change is a pressing reality. For Republican leadership - not so much. But many young Republicans now see this issue differently from their parents' generation. As part of our ongoing series on how people on the East Coast are adapting to climate change, we're joined now by one of those young conservatives who's trying to change his political party. Nick Lindquist is the policy director for the American Conservation Coalition, an environmental group for conservative millennials. He's also a senior at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y.

Hey there.

NICK LINDQUIST: Hi. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So why is protecting the environment important to you?

LINDQUIST: Well, as you said, I - you know, I'm in Syracuse, N.Y., currently. I've grown up here. And I don't think enough people know that there is more to New York than New York City. Growing up, you know, camping and riding bikes down the Erie Canal and going hiking with my friends at Green Lakes really cemented in my mind that I did see a value in our natural world. And I want to be able to pass that along to future generations and my children.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And how would you describe the Republican Party's historic relationship to environmental issues and climate change?

LINDQUIST: You know, wildlife and sportsmanship has been a big presence in the Republican Party. I mean, Teddy Roosevelt founded the National Park Service and - I mean, you know, Nixon's EPA and the clean energy bills that George Bush passed and things like that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But on climate change, the record has been a little bit different.

LINDQUIST: It has. I think the strategy mainly has been denial and pushing the issue away. However, there is a kind of change where people are like, OK. Maybe we should talk about this issue. And I think it's important that we continue down that path.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So as a young Republican, what do you tell people in your party who may say, we don't believe in the science behind climate change?

LINDQUIST: Number one, you know, I know it is model based. But 99% of scientists are saying that this is true. If someone told you anything was 9 times out of 10 going to happen, wouldn't you do the thing that'll give you the best outcome? And also, even if it's not as severe as people estimate or not, there's new jobs in clean energy and environmental mitigation and things of that nature. So kind of tying in the economic aspect of it helps us a lot as well.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what is your message to the GOP?

LINDQUIST: It is time for us to get real messaging on environmental and climate issues. And I don't think that we have to sacrifice our values and our roots in, you know, markets and private-sector innovations helping us get across the finish line. And also, like, we are the future of the GOP, and it matters to this growing voting bloc. And it's not going to go away by denial.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Does it seem like you have more in common with members of your own generation, regardless of party, on this issue?

LINDQUIST: Broadly, across both parties among our age base, it is a pressing issue. And I think that the sense of urgency brings us together in that sense. It's no longer, this party thinks it's real, and this party doesn't. It's, this party wants this solution. This party wants this solution. Where can we meet in the middle?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Nick Lindquist is the policy director for the American Conservation Coalition. Thank you so much.

LINDQUIST: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.