By Wendy Becktold
This article from “Sierra,” the national magazine of the Sierra Club, explores the growth and progress of the Climate Solutions Caucus.
In January 2017, on his first day in office, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania, joined the Climate Solutions Caucus. “I signed up and I’ve been an active member ever since,” he said in a recent phone interview. Why did he join? He wanted, he said, to be part of a scenario in which the environment is not politicized.
In the current political climate, the idea that the environment, and more specifically climate change, could ever be a nonpartisan issue seems almost outlandish. But that’s the goal of the Climate Solutions Caucus, which was founded in February 2016 by two U.S. representatives from Florida—Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Ted Deutch. Both represent coastal districts that are already experiencing the effects of sea level rise, and both were convinced that finding common ground was possible.
The concept for the caucus originated with Jay Butera, a legislative liaison with the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), which builds political support for bipartisan solutions to climate change. “I had this idea that if we could just get the two parties to talk to each other about this issue, the irrational gridlock would begin to fade away,” Butera said. “I was going around Capitol Hill explaining what I was trying to accomplish, and people in both parties would laugh and say, ‘Well, that’s never going to happen. What’s your plan B?”
But in fact, it has happened, and two years in, the caucus has grown to 70 members—half Republicans and half Democrats.