News and Commentary

Climate Activists Invited To Congress, Sole Conservative Left Out Of Democrats’ Praise
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 15: Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., arrives for the House Democrats' caucus meeting in the Capitol on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018.
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Members of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee held a joint meeting with the House Climate Crisis Committee on Wednesday to hear from four young activists, including conservative Benji Backer, about what the country can do to address climate change.

During the hearing, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), chairwoman of the Climate Crisis Committee, emphasized the need for Americans to cooperate on the issue and gave a call to action to the public, saying, “We want the ideas to come from all corners of this country and beyond.”

But on Twitter, Castor excluded Backer, the lone conservative of the group, from public praise, instead choosing to post a photo, without Backer, with a caption praising only activists Greta Thunberg, Jamie Margolin, and Vic Barrett. “This is what it looks like when Congress listens to a generation of young people who are growing up in the #ClimateCrisis,” Castor tweeted.

Other politicians also excluded Backer from online praise, including Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) and former Vice President Al Gore, who commended the activists for rising up to speak “truth to power” in a tweet published two days before the hearing.

“I’m proud to support @ClimateReality leader @Jaime_Margolin, along with @GretaThunberg & Vic Barret speaking truth to power to Congress this week. This generation and its leaders are rightly & justly demanding a better future. #LeadOnClimate,” tweeted Gore.

Backer, who was invited to testify by Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), is the president of the American Conservation Coalition, an organization dedicated to promoting “free-market and pro-business environmentalism,” according to the organization’s website.

During the hearing, Backer criticized government intervention policies such as the Green New Deal as “one-size-fits-all approaches.” Those policies would “inhibit innovations and are not an effective way to reduce emissions,” said Backer.

Backer also pointed to the atrocious environmental records of countries with high levels of government control, like Venezuela, stating, “We cannot regulate our way out of climate change.”

“If you truly want to address climate change, work with conservatives who want to champion reforms,” said Backer.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Il) expressed similar views to Backer, saying, we need to “support market-driven innovations to develop new clean energy technologies that will put the United States at the forefront of environmental technologies.” Kinzinger also noted the need to support nuclear energy, a divisive topic among climate activists and Democratic politicians.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), for example, is against nuclear power. His campaign website notes that in order “to get to our goal of 100 percent sustainable energy, we will not rely on any false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators.”

At the CNN climate change town hall earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced that she was against building new nuclear reactors. “We will start weaning ourselves off nuclear and replace it with renewables,” said Warren, as reported by the Washington Examiner.

But at the same town hall, Sen. Cory Booker said nuclear power is important for reducing carbon emissions. “My plan says that we need to be at a zero-carbon electricity by 2030,” said Booker, as reported by CNN. “People who think that we can get there, without nuclear being part of the blend, just aren’t looking at the facts.”