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Republican congressman addresses major stigma surrounding his party: 'It's very important for Republicans to engage'

Republican Congressman John Curtis didn't intend to be a climate leader

John Curtis

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Republican Congressman John Curtis didn't intend to be a climate leader. After all, he comes from a district in Utah that represents oil, gas, and a portion of the coal that powers 53% of the state's electricity.

But his love of the outdoors and his deep desire to protect it for his grandkids led him to become one of the most vocal — and unexpected — climate leaders in both his home state and in Washington.

"One of my long-term goals is to have every Republican talking about being good stewards, leaving this Earth better than we found it," Curtis told The Cool Down. "And in truth, I think we always have, but we talk about it in a different way."

Climate hasn't traditionally been a part of the Republican Party platform, and Curtis believes "that leaves people with the assumption that we don't care." He calls that assumption "a mistake."

"You don't have to check your conservative values at the door to be good on this issue," he added. "It's very important for Republicans to engage."

That's why Curtis started the Conservative Climate Caucus, which counts about one-third of all House Republicans among its members. 

"That surprises a lot of people," Curtis said. "Especially when they learn that the first tenet of the caucus is that the climate's changing and that decades and decades of an Industrial Revolution caused by man has had an impact on the climate." 

The caucus works to educate Republicans on climate issues and promote conservative climate solutions.

"This is a big deal because it gives us a better opportunity to talk with our Democratic colleagues about solutions instead of debating whether or not this is really happening," Curtis explained. "And I think what you're seeing right now happening in Washington is more and more of a thoughtful debate, not about the science, but about the best way to reduce [pollution]."

"And Republicans have different ideas than some of our Democratic colleagues, but they're all about reducing [pollution]," he continued. "And I think it's important to have this debate and talk about our ideas versus their ideas, and I think it's healthy for the country. I think it's healthy for the climate, and I'm really proud of Republicans for being more and more a part of this conversation."

While there are plenty of solutions that the two parties disagree on, there's also a surprising amount of overlap. Majorities of Republicans and Democrats want to increase funding for clean energy research and want the government to provide homeowners and businesses with incentives to buy clean appliances, energy-efficient vehicles, or solar panels.

It's critical we find these areas of common ground because the latest research shows climate change remains a relatively low priority among most Republican voters and hasn't changed much over the years.

Curtis believes the solution lies in inviting everyone to be part of the solution. To him, there's more progress happening between Republicans and Democrats than most people think — "literally on a daily basis," he said. 

In addition to busting the stigma that conservatives don't care about climate issues, Curtis is walking the walk in his own life. The congressman recently gave The Cool Down an exclusive tour of his new climate-friendly home, which saves him thousands of dollars a year, which you can see here.

"[I'm] doing everything I can, from changing my light bulbs to putting features in my home that reduce the impact on the climate," he said. "And I'm literally speaking to everybody I can — both Republican and Democrat — about how we can do this better." 

Perhaps more than anything, Curtis is motivated by his six kids and his 15 (soon to be 16) grandchildren. 

"Unequivocably, I'm in this because of them," he said. "I grew up in a place where I could enjoy the outdoors and clean air and clean water, and it would just break my heart to think that my grandkids couldn't have that same opportunity. I know in my heart that there'll be a day when they look back and say, 'I'm sure glad dad or grandpa or my great-grandpa did what he did.'"

Curtis family
Photo Credit: John Curtis

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