The hearts of red Wisconsinite Republicans are slowly but surely turning green as they begin to show support for climate-friendly technology.
Scott Coenen, who acts as Executive Director of the Wisconsin Energy Forum, gave an interview to The Cap Times last month providing an explanation for the sudden change of heart. According to Coenen, Republicans are approaching the topic of switching to renewable technology from a fiscal perspective which still satisfies the party’s orientation.
“We come at this from a free-market point of view — a conservative point of view,” Coenen said. “What we are seeing as far as what’s coming next is the fact that these technologies are cost-effective.”
Conservatives are correct — renewable energy is a smarter option and it’s about time more people around the country start believing it.
For some background, renewable technology makes energy possible in a way that does not exploit the earth. It has proven to be cheaper than fossil fuel and natural gas energy, it doesn’t contribute to the greenhouse effect, and you get a proverbial pat on the back from Mother Nature by using it.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, investing in renewable energy can also be smart fiscally, as it has the potential to significantly help this country’s economy.
According to an IRENA report in 2016, if renewable technology’s share doubles on economic growth, welfare, employment and international trade by the year 2030, then U.S. gross domestic product could increase by 0.6%. In the same report it also says social welfare would increase by 3.6%.
So obviously, the adoption of renewable technology would be helpful and smart in several ways.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. For years, climate change has gotten stuck in a tug-of-war between Democrats and Republicans. While it is an issue that affects all of us, it’s something that’s become disregarded as a party issue and nothing else, which has stalled progress.
In his interview, Coenen addressed this idea as the main issue stymieing climate action.
“Climate is without a doubt the most divisive reason to support renewable energy,” Coenen said.
Because climate action won’t happen with only one party rooting for its success, it is crucial for there to be bipartisan approval. United support in Wisconsin — a split-ticket, swing state — could show others the impossible is indeed quite possible.
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Wisconsin could set a positive example and lead our country’s polarized system with grace, showing if we really wanted to, we could put the planet’s health first without anybody getting hurt.
Additionally, if both party systems are driving toward a common goal, then the goal is twice as likely to be achieved. Not to mention the GOP has also traditionally had more influence over big business corporations — Republican endorsement will translate into corporation support as well.
Again, like Coenen said, the angle Republicans are playing is smart because large companies that have the power to set renewable trends are money-driven, and conservatives have proven taking on renewable energy is economically rewarding.
Wisconsin, in its unique split-ticket state status, makes the possibility of bipartisan support for climate action even better than normal. If the public is splitting their ticket anyway, the rise of a bipartisan issue could gain a huge amount of support because the public was not a set “red or blue” in the first place.
Since people are willing to move over party lines more fluidly, they will also be more likely to engage in heterogeneous discussion.
A study done by the American Political Science Review showed how politically and demographically diverse discussion actually widens perspectives, increases tolerance and improves civic participation in politics.
With this new breakthrough, yes, a lot could happen in Wisconsin because of the sheer fact there could finally be a majority supporting climate action. But also the idea of bipartisanship in such a divisive issue means so much more in the communications world.
As Abraham Lincoln once alluded to in a more eloquent way — with unity, we can get things done. This bipartisanship has leveled the playing field in so many ways.
See, climate change is always covered a certain way, with a scientist and a disbeliever on opposite sides. Balanced coverage works against the issue, giving people the impression both arguments have equal value. This is harmful because people shouldn’t get to disagree. People shouldn’t get to have opinions on facts.
Misleading balance in climate change coverage has turned climate action into a debate, and that moved it to the back burner. But now with bipartisan shifting the lines of priority, it will completely change the course of communication on this issue.
Republicans moving a little to the left on this issue could be the best thing to happen for this state, the country, and, of course, good ol’ Mother Earth.
Katie Hardie ([email protected]) is a freshman studying nursing.