The Green New Deal Helped Spur These Republicans to Start a

Two Republican senators launched a new group this week to advocate for #8220market-based approaches#8221 to environmental problems in the wake of growing momentum among Democrats pushing for an aggressive approach to climate change and other issues.

The formation of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus mdash named for Teddy mdash is an indication of how quickly the politics surrounding climate change and other environmental issues have shifted as Democrats push for aggressive measures like the Green New Deal and voters increasingly recognize the threat of global warming.

Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado, who are leading the caucus in the Senate along with other Republicans in the House, seemed to acknowledge the new political energy around the environment mdash without mentioning the Green New Deal explicitly mdash in a letter seeking the support of their fellow Republicans obtained by TIME. #8220Republicans have a long history of promoting conservation and environmental protection,#8221 the letter seeking support from GOP colleagues reads. But #8220these issues have been increasingly hijacked by beliefs in big government solutions and radical environmentalism.#8221

While the letter appears to reference the Green New Deal, Benji Backer, president of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC), a conservative group focused on the environment that is working with the caucus, says talks around starting the group have been ongoing for more than six months.

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Many Republicans in Congress have spent the last decade either ignoring climate change or seeking to chip away at the country#8217s environmental rules. President Trump has further fueled that fight with his consistent denial of the science of global warming.

Read More: The Green New Deal Could Launch Republican Climate Solutions

But, in recent weeks, some Republicans have started to shift gear, at least rhetorically. Republicans on the House Science and Energy and Commerce committees, for instance, said in hearings that they accepted the science of climate change and declined to call witnesses who sought to undermine it unlike in recent years. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the former Republican Whip, tweeted positively about a carbon tax in December. And a slew of GOP elder statesmen have pushed for Congress to embrace such a proposal.

ldquoIn Florida, wersquove felt the social and economic consequences of environmental disaster firsthand,#8221 said Rep. Brian Mast, a Florida Republican who#8217s leading the caucus in the House, in a statement. #8220It#8217s necessary that we work together to strengthen conservation efforts and protect our environment.rdquo

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