An odd couple for climate: Rep. Gosar & Rep. Polis advocate across the aisle

Rep. Paul Gosar and Rep. Jared Polis

In 2015, Rep. Paul Gosar (left) introduced H.R. 2663 with support from Rep. Jared Polis (right). The two have partnered to build bipartisan support for the bill.

An odd couple for climate: Rep. Gosar & Rep. Polis advocate across the aisle

By Davia Rivka

Representative Paul Gosar is a 57-year-old Catholic Republican from the state of Arizona. He has been a member of Congress since 2011. He votes pro-life, opposes efforts to restrict gun rights, is in favor of securing the U.S. borders and opposes amnesty in all forms.

Representative Jared Polis is a 41-year-old openly gay, Jewish Democrat from the state of Colorado. He has been a member of Congress since 2009. He votes pro-choice, is in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and refers to climate change as the most challenging environmental issue of our time.

If I were you, at about this time I’d be thinking, “Look, spare me. I’m already up to my eyeballs in political divisiveness. No more, please.” Not only will I spare you, I’ll shine a little light in the darkness. In 2015, Representative Paul Gosar introduced H.R. 2663, the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act. Take one guess who his key supporter is on this legislation. You got it: Representative Jared Polis.

Gosar, Polis H.R. 2663 briefing

Gosar and Polis at their January 12 briefing to present H.R. 2663 to congressional staffers

The legislation is brilliant in its wide appeal. It makes the permitting process for wind, solar and geothermal development on public lands much simpler and establishes a revenue sharing mechanism that ensures a fair return for all. That means more renewable energy and a better use of the money raised—and that’s what I call win-win.

So how is it that this unlikely friendship came to be? No mystery—I’m sure you’ve seen this in your own life. When you get past labels and preconceived ideas and take the time to really listen, you can discover another human being. You can find common ground.

And that’s what happened. Representatives Gosar and Polis both sit on the House Natural Resources Committee. That’s where their working relationship began to take root. They held a briefing, or meeting, to explain the legislation to congressional staffers. Their bond deepened. They made a list of potential co-sponsors for the legislation, then divvied up the names. Gosar worked one side of the aisle; Polis worked the other. They made a great team. To their credit, all nine members of the Arizona congressional delegation are co-sponsors, ranging from one end of the political spectrum to the other.

So here’s where you come in. Try these three things to support their efforts:

  1. Check the list to see if your representative is already a co-sponsor of the bill. If not, send them an email asking them to co-sponsor H.R. 2663.
  2. Ask folks from related industries or organizations to send a letter of support to the Natural Resources Committee chairs, Rob Bishop, (R-UT) and Raul Grijalva, (D-AZ). (Here’s the contact information for a letter.)
  3. Be a Gosar/Polis copycat. Befriend someone who appears not to share your values. It might just energize you!

Here’s the way I see it: Passing this legislation would be a two-pronged victory. First, it would support development of renewable resources and redistribute revenues to worthwhile causes. Second, it would demonstrate that we can work together toward our common good, despite different worldviews. And actually, the bill already shows that: to date, it has 33 Republican and 35 Democratic co-sponsors. Let’s encourage the cooperation to continue all the way to a stable climate!

Davia Rivka is a Los Angeles-based climate change warrior who is hard at work on her second book: a collection of inspirational stories about the extraordinary work of Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers. Check out her blog atdaviarivka.com.