WASHINGTON — When John Barrasso, a Republican from oil and uranium-rich Wyoming who has spent years blocking climate change legislation, introduced a bill this year to promote nuclear energy, he added a twist: a desire to tackle global warming.
Mr. Barrasso’s remarks — “If we are serious about climate change, we must be serious about expanding our use of nuclear energy” — were hardly a clarion call to action. Still they were highly unusual for the lawmaker who, despite decades of support for nuclear power and other policies that would reduce planet-warming emissions, has until recently avoided talking about them in the context of climate change.
“Denying the basic existence of climate change is no longer a credible position,” said Whit Ayers, a Republican political consultant, pointing out the growing climate concern among millennials as well as centrist voters — two groups the G.O.P. will need in the future.
In recent weeks Senator John Cornyn of Texas — an oil state where climate denial runs deep — said he is helping write legislation to reduce emissions through “energy innovation.” Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said he wants to create a “Manhattan Project” for clean energy funding. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is exploring bipartisan plans to curb emissions from her position as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. And Representative Matthew Gaetz of Florida, who once called to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, introduced legislation to tackle climate change by encouraging nuclear energy and hydropower, as well as “carbon capture” technology, which aims to pull planet-warming carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
There are subtler signs of this G.O.P. shift as well. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis this year, Republican leaders tapped Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana as the panel’s ranking member. Though he hails from a region dependent on oil and gas, Mr. Graves has struck a bipartisan tone and made a point of noting the deleterious effect sea level rise will have on his state’s economy.
But Republicans also are walking a tightrope. In the Trump administration, G.O.P. orthodoxy has shifted strongly toward denying or dismissing the threat of climate change. Veering away from it could cause a lawmaker to lose campaign contributions and key political support.
Read the complete article in the New York Times here.