The GOP has long denied the effects of global warming, with President Donald Trump at the helm of its anti-climate change platform. However, after major pushes against the crisis from crucial voting groups, some Republicans have been switching positions on the issue. Republican consultant Whit Ayers said, “Denying the basic existence of climate change is no longer a credible position.” More notably, Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves believes that the Republican outlook on the climate crisis needs to change. Most have likely never heard of him, so let’s dive into who he is.
Who is Garret Graves?
Graves currently serves as the top Republican on a Democrat-led select panel on climate change. The committee was created last winter after a group of 150 teenage activists staged a sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office.
Backed with a detailed PowerPoint presentation, Graves urged Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy to take advantage of the panel. Specifically, he insisted there was “a better way to apply Republican principles to this issue of climate change.”
Considering Graves’ home state, his care for the matter makes sense. According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a football field of land is lost to the Gulf of Mexico every 100 minutes in coastal Louisiana. Devastating floods and hurricanes have caused mass destruction to the state, not to mention rising sea levels have also caused crippling damage to the state’s economy.
“We’ve lost 2,000 square miles of our coast,” Graves said. “If the state of Rhode Island lost 2,000 square miles, we’d have 49 states today.”
The EDF supported Graves’ selection on the climate committee. An outdoorsman with a deep love for nature, Graves rides an eco-friendly electric motorbike and loves climbing mountains. He even named his three children after his favorite peaks.
During his career, Graves co-sponsored a wetlands conservation bill and called for recognition of Louisiana Cajuns as an endangered species. Additionally, he implored the Trump administration to grant Louisiana flooding victims with relief aid, among other efforts.
Though Graves seemingly looks like a man with a passion for environmentalism, some are skeptical about his intentions.
Graves’ Track Record Calls For Skepticism
Years ago, Graves told The Guardian: “Years ago I said that I thought the Republican position on climate change is unsustainable.”
He adds: “Just sitting around totally denying science is an unsustainable position.”
But even still, Democrats and environmentalists are still skeptical of Graves’ motives. The third-term representative only received a three percent lifetime rating by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) on his environmental record. In 2018, the LCV scored Graves a 0%. This means of all 2018 legislation the LCV believed to be vital in environmental conservation, Graves voted in opposition.
The New Yorker reported Graves accepted twice as many donations from contributors in the oil and gas industry than any other in the last election cycle. In total, the congressman has received upwards of $515,600 of contributions from the industry over the last 5 years, as found by nonpartisan, nonprofit research team Open Secrets.
It’s also important to know Louisiana’s huge contributions to the fossil fuel industry. An analysis by the federal government cited Louisiana as one of the top 10 states in crude oil reserves and annual crude oil production. The profile also recognized the state’s total energy consumption and per capita energy consumption as one of the highest in the country, due to its booming petroleum, chemical, and natural gas industry.
So, although Graves has been the GOP’s advocate for climate change, he hasn’t held the fossil fuel industry accountable. Though several other party members hold a similar view, chances of stifling Trump’s push to become the most energy dominant nation are slim.
While Graves isn’t jumping on board with any left-wing climate policies any time soon, his recognition of climate change and still guides many conservative politicians out of the dark on this issue. Now, there’s just hope his voting record will start aligning more with his call for action.