He and his co-organizers have succeeded—at least in name. College Republican groups at Auburn University, the University of Miami, the University of Michigan, and more than a dozen other schools announced their support for the plan on Wednesday. So did the Republican club at a certain school near Boston.
“The Republican Party has failed to have a coherent strategy for climate change,” said Kiera O’Brien, a 19-year-old government major and the president of the Harvard Republican Club. She is also a vice president of the Students for Carbon Dividends.
“I was born and raised in Ketchikan, Alaska, so I grew up with a deep respect for the environment,” she told me. “Moving to the Lower 48 after growing up in Alaska was shocking—even just from the perspective of light pollution, of going outside and not being able to see the stars.”
“I may not see the effects [of global warming] yet in my hometown, but the world’s changing,” she added.
Students for Carbon Dividends has also succeeded in recruiting six College Democratic groups and several environmental-advocacy organizations to the cause. “This solution is not necessarily perfect, but it’s a good one that we can work with Republicans on, and it’s an improvement on the status quo,” said Jordan Cozby, the president of the Yale College Democrats and a 20-year-old history major from Huntsville, Alabama.
“Recognizing that the balance of power is the way it is, it’s unlikely that Democrats or any pro-climate members of Congress will be able to push through a partisan, Democratic climate plan. So what are the solutions we can look for with the current circumstances?” he asked Wednesday. He added that many Democrats want to make sure the proposal is “as robust and environmentally conscious” as possible “before any of the regulations are pulled back.”
Not every young conservative who joined seemed sold on climate science. Dylan Jones, the chairman of the University of Kansas College Republicans, told me that much of what he knows about global warming he learned from his dad, who works as a meteorologist in Wichita.
“What I like to think is, something’s obviously happening with the climate,” he said. “But I’ve been skeptical of many of the questions surrounding it. I think a lot of the conversation around climate change is still an ever-changing debate—it’s not necessarily set in stone, or scientific fact, that humans may be a cause.”
This view is not supported by established science. In November, a comprehensive report from 13 U.S. federal and military agencies declared that human activity was “the dominant cause” of observed global warming since the mid-20th century. “There is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence,” it said.
Yet despite Jones’s doubtfulness about climate science as a whole, he says imposing a price on carbon pollution was the right thing to do.