Establishment Republicans will probably never authorize sweeping action on climate change. The Fox News crowd is twice as likely as other Republicans to say climate change isn’t caused by humans—the scientific consensus confirmed by decades upon decades (pdf) of studies (as well as the laws of physics).
But that’s not true for young Republicans (as well as most of the GOP under the age of 38). Pew Research Center recently polled 3,627 US adults to gauge their opinion on climate change, and the results show a generational divide in the GOP getting wider with every generation.
While only 31% of boomers (1946-64) say the federal government does too little to reduce the effects of climate change, 52% of millennials (born after 1980) say the same thing. Overall, two-thirds of US adults (67%) agree the US government does too little.
Don’t expect change anytime soon. The average age of the 115th Congress (pdf) is among the highest in American history: 57.8 years old for House members, and 61.8 for senators. But a changing of the guard is inevitable.
While it’s unlikely enough GOP incumbents (or older conservative voters) will change their mind on climate to break a congressional stalemate, movement is unlikely to depend on convincing opponents of climate policy.
As German physicist Max Planck once said about progress in science, it advances one funeral (or retirement) at a time. “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it,” he wrote in his 1968 autobiography. When it comes the politics of climate change, the axiom may apply to Congress as well.