Conservative green group wants 'cover’ for Republicans on climate

The leader of ConservAmerica, a Republican environmental group, hopes to provide political “cover” for GOP lawmakers who want to tackle climate change but are wary of drawing primary opponents.

Rob Sisson, the group’s president, told The New York Times that conservatives can find “common ground” on approaches to fight global warming, but said many lawmakers fear political blowback.

“The issue ... is the way our political system works right now. With primaries so partisan, most Republicans don’t dare mention it publicly for fear they won’t come out of a primary,” Sisson said in a joint interview with National Audubon Society President David Yarnold.

Climate change can be politically tricky terrain for Republicans. Former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) blamed his 2010 primary loss in part on his belief in human-induced global warming.

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The National Audubon Society and ConservAmerica in September launched the “American Eagle Compact,” a pledge drive that’s aimed at building support for conservation across political lines. One of the pledge's tag lines is "Conservation is not left, right or center — it’s common sense."

Sisson said the compact can help provide Republicans cover by building support in their states for addressing climate and other conservation goals.

“That’s one of the great things about the compact. These Republicans are looking for cover. They are looking for support back home from a broad range of constituents who will back them up when they take a stand on this and other issues,” he said in the wide-ranging interview.

More from Sisson on climate:

We have close relationships with maybe 50 or 60 Republicans on the Hill. They all get this — they understand the enormous ramifications and risks to our nation and to national security. But they have a question: “Would you rather have me here or have me lose to someone who comes from an entirely different place?” There are a lot of conversations in conservative circles right now about the evidence that man, particularly with a lot of burning fossil fuels, is the primary driver of what we are seeing.

The joint interview with the Times also covers natural-gas drilling, species conservation and several other topics. Check out the whole thing here.