Dec 11, 2018 - Energy & Environment

Following Trump's lead, Republicans avoid addressing climate change

Adapted from Quorum; Note: Online includes Tweets and Facebook posts; Chart: Axios Visuals
Adapted from Quorum; Note: Online includes Tweets and Facebook posts; Chart: Axios Visuals

Republican lawmakers in the Trump era are talking about climate change far less than they used to, while Democratic mentions have spiked to new highs, according to an analysis by public affairs software company Quorum.

The big picture: There's always been a divide between Republicans and Democrats on the issue, but this data — measured by the number of floor statements, press releases and social media posts that mentioned climate change — shows that the chasm is growing. And it's happening as new scientific reports and extreme weather events are drawing new attention to the issue.

Likely reasons GOP acknowledgement is declining:

  • Republicans have less incentive to address the topic, partly due to the position President Trump has taken. With Trump's refusals to accept the findings of recent climate reports — even from his own administration — he has moved the party further from the scientific consensus and has taken away cover for members who want to address the issue.
  • The occurrence of extreme weather events and the release of new climate forecasts prompts media coverage, and politicians are asked to respond. Forced into immediate answers, Republicans have retreated where they might otherwise acknowledge the science at a more gradual pace.

Likely reasons Democratic discussion is increasing:

  • The extreme weather eventshurricanes, wildfires, extreme heat — have added new urgency to the discussion.
  • Alarming new reports describing the damage that climate change may inflict on the planet in the future have contributed to the urgency.
  • Trump's denials have put Democrats in the politically advantageous position of defending the conclusions of the country's top scientists.
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