Gulf of Mexico
Markus Spisker / Unsplash

FL - U.S. conservatives stake claim to climate activism with Miami rally

For Benji Backer, being conservative means believing in limited government, market-based solutions -- and the scientists who say carbon emissions must be cut to avoid the worst of climate change.

For Benji Backer, being conservative means believing in limited government, market-based solutions -- and the scientists who say carbon emissions must be cut to avoid the worst of climate change.

Backer's nonprofit, the American Conservation Coalition, held what it billed as the country’s first conservative climate rally in Miami, part of an effort by the 23-year-old activist to convince fellow right-leaning Americans they don’t have to be liberals to support action on the issue.

It included a handful of Republican politicians from south Florida, which faces climate threats including tidal floods from rising seas, stronger hurricanes, and health risks from higher temperatures and humidity.

"The environment does not have a preferred political party," Backer said from a podium overlooking a bay near where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a $6 billion sea wall. "Today conservatives are reclaiming our seat at the environmental table."

An avid skier and hiker, Backer began organizing ACC while a college freshman and becoming dismayed with then-President Donald Trump, who said climate change was a hoax created by the Chinese. The group said it hopes its membership, currently in the thousands, will expand to 10,000 by the end of this year.

Backer's mission reflects a nuance in U.S. climate politics that is often lost in the partisan debate: while the Republican Party is seen as opposed to climate action, many of its members believe in global warming but disagree with liberals over how to fix it.

Read more.