Scaling the cliff: Climate advocacy under a Trump presidency

Trump climate change

President-elect Donald Trump presents a challenge to environmental advocacy, but Republican climate leaders still stand after Tuesday’s election.

By Flannery Winchester

Over the course of his campaign for president, Trump has said that he would “cancel” the Paris agreement and scrap the Clean Power Plan. He promised to support fossil fuel development like coal and oil, and the market has responded accordingly. He’s suggested that he’ll “cancel all wasteful climate change spending.” After one day as president-elect, he appointed climate denier Myron Ebell to lead his EPA transition team. Ebell’s history suggests he’s prepared to support Trump’s debate promise to “get rid of [the EPA] in almost every form.”

Trump can’t necessarily follow through on all the claims he’s made, but his election and his attitude present an incredible challenge to the climate. CCL’s executive director Mark Reynolds acknowledged this yesterday in a statement, saying, “I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Last night was a rough one. A man who has called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese is going to be our next president.” He encouraged us to take a moment to process the new reality. “Take today—and perhaps the next—to acknowledge your grief and do what you need to do to work through it, whether it is screaming to the point of hoarseness or crying to the point of dehydration…and then come back.”

And we will come back because, as we often quote in CCL, “Action is the antidote to despair.” And our action is aimed with a laser focus on Congress, where there were some silver linings on Tuesday night.

Republican climate leaders still standing

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida, has been a strong conservative voice on climate change—and he was just re-elected. Curbelo is a founding member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, and he co-signed the Republican-led Gibson resolution acknowledging the challenge of climate change.

His re-election by the people of Florida underscores the urgency of the problem—no party can ignore climate change when sea level rise is affecting their state. His re-election also shows the huge opportunity climate change presents for conservatives to be leaders. Curbelo actually outperformed the top of the ticket, showing that smart, science-based positions and bipartisan efforts like his can garner real support among conservative voters.

Tuesday’s results were mixed for the other members of the Climate Solutions Caucus. CCL volunteer Jay Butera, who was instrumental in making this caucus a reality, said, “We’ve lost a few good friends in Congress and they will be missed. But the good news is that the vast majority of Members who have been working with us were re-elected. I am quite encouraged by this.”

The model set up by Rep. Curbelo and his Democratic partner Rep. Deutch (D-FL) will prevail. New members must come two-by-two, Republican and Democrat, joining forces across the aisle to confront climate change. CCL’s efforts nationwide will continue to encourage representatives to hear their constituents’ priorities, find a friend across the aisle, and join this caucus.

We’re coming to the Hill

CCL volunteers gather on the steps of the Capitol before heading off for meetings with congressional offices.

CCL volunteers gather on the steps of the Capitol before heading off for meetings with congressional offices.

The safest time to talk to elected officials is just after an election. No one is campaigning or worrying overmuch about how their actions are perceived by their base. By extension, an especially safe time to speak with Republicans is when they’re in the majority: they have the White House, the House and the Senate. Now is their time to show leadership, present policy proposals, and do the work of legislating. They’ve got the ball: we’re going to help them run in the right direction with it.

Next week, CCL volunteers from across the country will spend two days in DC educating every representative about Carbon Fee & Dividend. Carbon Fee & Dividend is a market-based, economy-boosting solution to reduce emissions and shift the market away from fossil fuels on a global scale. We’ll advocate for a carbon fee next week, the next four years, or as long as it takes to achieve it.

If you’re not in attendance at CCL’s lobby days next week, or if you aren’t yet a member of CCL, here are five important steps you can take on your own, courtesy of CCL volunteer Davia Rivka:

  1. Find the name of your member of congress (MoC) at
  2. Visit your MoC’s website to see what they are doing about climate change
  3. Send an email to your MoC
    • Introduce yourself as a concerned constituent
    • Thank them for something they have done
    • Express your concerns about climate change
    • Request that they keep you informed about next steps
  4. Learn more at
  5. Share these steps—and keep making a difference.

The work continues

As CCL’s executive director Mark Reynolds said yesterday, we are now presented with an even greater challenge. “The steep hill we’ve been climbing has become a sheer cliff,” he said. “But cliffs are scalable. We may have to trade our walking sticks for ropes, but we will do what is necessary.”

Are you ready? Grab a rope.

Flannery Winchester has put her words to work for magazines, for marketing agencies, and now for our earth as CCL's Communications Director. She is grateful to spend every day working to preserve this beautiful planet.