Trump CPAC

President Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2017. Trump has dismissed climate change as a priority during his presidency, a split from younger conservatives who see it as a pressing issue.

South Carolina Republicans like Clemson junior William Galloway are fighting to get the party to take climate change seriously. 

In 2019, The New York Times featured Galloway, a political science major, in a front page story about how college-aged conservatives are splitting from their party on environmental issues.

“Climate change will not discriminate between red states and blue states.” said Galloway.

Evan Patrohay, a junior biosystems engineering major, is also unsatisfied with the way the Republican Party has handled climate change.

“It is so easy for someone who is against big government to believe that climate change is a massive hoax,” said Patrohay, a Republican and active environmentalist in the Clemson community. “I used to be the exact same way. But the science is real and frightening.”

For the past four years, President Trump has represented the Republican Party’s view on climate change. During his presidency, he has repealed environmental laws and regulations on methane, cross-state air pollution and energy efficiency. He has also questioned and outright dismissed scientific findings on climate change.

Nationally, only 21% of Republicans in America think that climate change should be a top priority, compared to 78% of Democrats, according to a 2020 poll by the Pew Research Center.

Many college conservatives like Galloway and Patrohay feel disconnected from their older representatives and don’t feel accurately represented on these issues.

Polls have reflected that generational split. Of Republicans aged 18 to 54, 68% reported that climate change is important to their vote, according to another Pew Research Center poll. 90% of GOP respondents in the same age group said that they would favor Trump more if he took a more conservative approach to addressing climate change instead of dismissing it.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, may be one of the few Republicans in Congress who take climate change seriously compared to many of his colleagues.

While Graham has differed from President Trump in terms of climate issues in the past and even encouraged Trump to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement, he has “not put forth any new ideas or backed any bold actions” in protecting the environment, according to EcoWatch.

Graham Conference

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks at a conference in 2016.

Students like Galloway and Patrohay seem to have similar goals in regards to climate change to those of Senator Graham.

“I believe climate change is real,” said Graham, in a statement supplied by his staff. “I also believe that we as Americans have the ability to come up with climate change solutions that can benefit our economy and our way of life. The United States has long been a leader in innovation. Addressing climate change is an opportunity to put our knowledge and can-do spirit to work to protect the environment for our benefit today and for future generations.”

In the words of Galloway, “The quality of our life is directly connected to the quality of land we live on. So we must work as a people to preserve it.”

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