The other night, I came home from a meeting and kicked off my leopard print flats that bear Ivanka Trump’s name. As a single mom, I cooked dinner alone for my two kids while they completed their homework. When it was time to eat, we sat down together at the dining room table.
About halfway through his meal, my younger son asked:“What’s Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE going to do for climate change?”
Before I could answer, my older son, a freshman in high school, blurted out: “He thinks it’s a hoax. He’s going to cancel the Paris agreement and let industry pollute.”
My younger son responded: “So he’s a bad guy.”
This exchange is not unlike many we have at the dinner table. My teenager is finding his political footing as he seeks out his trusted news sources and practices critical thinking. My tween still regards the world as comprised of superheroes and villains.
I wasn’t sure how to thoughtfully respond to them about President-elect Trump’s climate change position in a way that leaves them hopeful. What policies will he support to ensure the U.S. remains a leader in the global effort to address climate change, the biggest environmental crisis in generations? I wondered, what does Ivanka plan to say to her own young kids, grandkids of the 45th president, on this matter?
Maybe someone needs to ask. Mother to mother.
During her father’s campaign, Ivanka portrayed herself as a voice of reason, a connection to working mothers, a millennial who understands the concerns of the rising leadership generation. While it remains unclear whether she will assume an official advisory role in the White House, she undeniably has the ear of the next president. And an opportunity to bring him to reason on an issue about which other mothers, other millennials, other children care deeply.
Mother to mother, I’m asking Ivanka to lean in on climate change and encourage her father to take advantage of his access to the best scientific minds in the world. Ask him to sit through a briefing, several briefings, with leaders of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
Ask him to reach out to evangelical climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who marries science with faith. Ask him to bring in economists to discuss the benefits of adopting a revenue neutral, border adjustable carbon tax. Ask him to drop the campaign rhetoric and use the office he fought for and won not to dismantle progress, but to build a 21st century America founded on clean energy and innovation.
Dismissing climate change might have earned the President-elect applause at campaign rallies, but to persist with this narrative will make the United States not only the laughing stock of the world, but will hurt him with millennials, one demographic he failed to attract on November 8th. Already the largest voting block in U.S. history, they consider climate action a values issue.
If Trump wants to ease millennials’ concerns in his efforts to unite a divided nation, he might want to consider reversing course on some early climate proclamations. Don’t let paid climate change denier Myron Ebell mold (or lead) the Environmental Protection Agency. Don’t pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, or worse, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Do find an alternative to the Clean Power Plan of 2015.
Unfortunately, Trump filled his transition team with a greatest hits list of climate deniers who are unlikely to present him a balanced viewpoint. Only Ivanka can undo their damage and encourage her father to take a measured approach to climate change. Only Ivanka can urge her father to follow in the footsteps of Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Only Ivanka can help him appeal to the generation that otherwise is going to be responsible for dealing with our inaction. Only Ivanka can lead her father to a satisfactory policy answer for other mothers struggling with what to say to their kids.
The potential for both of them to carve out a climate legacy is huge.
Chelsea Henderson is is a senior advisor to RepublicEn.org and handled environmental policy for three Republican U.S. Senators.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.