Representative John Shimkus once issued a forceful rejection of climate science at a congressional hearing, invoking the Bible and declaring that “Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over.”
Last month, in a turnabout, the Illinois Republican signed onto a letter with the top Republican of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that said “prudent steps should be taken to address current and future climate risks.”
“It’s just not worth the fight anymore,” Shimkus said in an interview when asked about his changing stance on climate change. “Let’s just see what we can do to address it and not hurt the economy.”
Shimkus is among a number of Republicans who — after years of sowing doubt about climate change or ignoring it altogether — are scrambling to confront the science they once rejected. They are planning hearings on the issue, pledging to invest in technologies to mitigate its impact and openly talking about the need for taking action.
The shift in posture follows the public’s growing anxiety after catastrophic hurricanes, flooding and wildfires linked to global warming. Fully 74 percent of registered voters think global warming is happening and 67 percent said they are worried it, according to polling conducted by Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Among conservative Republicans, just 42 percent think global warming is happening but that is up five percentage points since a poll taken in 2017.
Moreover, Democrats have seized the issue with populist fever — even proposing a sweeping plan to phase out climate-warming gas emissions through a “Green New Deal.”
“Members are openly using the term climate change,” Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, from oil-rich Alaska, said of her GOP colleagues. “You are not seeing this kind of dismissive attitude but more open conversations about some of the challenges, some of the technologies we can look to, some of the solutions.”