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Newsweek: Fighting for the Climate Has Led Me to Give Up on the Two-Party System | Opinion

September 19, 2023
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“I Voted” stickers are displayed.PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

ON 9/19/23 AT 2:48 PM EDT

This year’s Climate Week NYC, which includes events around the country, comes at a precipitous time. The nation recently marked a year since President Joe Biden signed historic climate legislation, which together with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is helping the nation make important advancements on the environment. Some scientists are also seeing reasons for hope.

But some right-wing groups have plans to dismantle environmental policies if the GOP wins next year’s elections. And climate denialism remains alive and well. Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy has argued that “the climate change agenda is a hoax,” and that “more people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change”—a claim The Washington Post‘s fact checker gave “four Pinocchios.” Former President Donald Trump, by far the leading contender for the Republican nomination, has gone back and forth on whether he considers climate change a “hoax.”

Meanwhile, the stakes for tackling climate change are higher than ever. As Newsweek reported, “The planet has been dealing with unprecedented weather extremes in 2023, with thousands of people killed by increasingly severe natural disasters in recent years.”

Many people who consider themselves conservative in the true sense of the word recognize that the science of climate change is settled, and that transitioning into a new era of cleaner energy is a necessity.

Some say the answer is to instead support Democrats. But many have policy differences with the Democratic Party on a range of issues. And some activists on the left take extreme positions, like that all fossil fuels should be turned off immediately—an idea that would deprive people everywhere of the energy they need to live and operate—or that climate tech startups should refuse to take any money at all from oil companies. Oil companies are some of the biggest investors in renewable energy and the climate tech ecosystem, and their contributions are part of the solution.

The idea that everyone should rally behind the Democratic Party is also impractical. The two-party system is deeply entrenched in the minds and hearts of millions of voters on a wide range of issues, like on how we fund climate initiatives at the federal level. A great many tried-and-true Republicans may never vote blue.

Meanwhile, more than half the country wants a third party with real political power to come along and shake up the duopoly. I’m among them. For me, giving traditional conservatives a new home where they can work with people from all backgrounds to build real solutions is an absolute necessity.

That’s why I joined the Forward Party. We’re committed to science and to climate change solutions as a top priority. We believe in an “all hands on deck” approach, bringing together as many stakeholders as possible to take big steps. And we follow a local-first strategy, elevating the voices of experts focused on solutions for their communities. This is where the Forward Party is different: It values a bottom-up, grassroots, communities-first approach to government.

Texas, where I live, is home to some of the biggest efforts to adapt and respond to climate change. While known for its oil and gas supply, the state is also a world leader in renewable energy. “Texas has produced more gigawatt-hours of electricity from renewable sources than any other state for several years running, thanks largely to wind energy,” Inside Climate News reported earlier this year. It added that the Lone Star state is now “quickly closing the gap on California on utility-scale solar power.” Days ago, the San Antonio Express-News reported that, “Solar has been keeping the Texas grid running.”

Investment in renewable energy, hydrogen, and emissions management is also an economic boon, creating more jobs. And the reality of climate change is clear in Texas, where many of us lost our homes in Hurricane Harvey and other disasters. Our state has seen the highest number of billion-dollar disasters—more than 100 since the federal government began tracking them in 1980. Triple-digit temperatures have become a summer norm here.

Yet the state GOP has been actively trying to thwart renewable energy development. Between that and the corruption—including the acquittal of impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton—more and more people are fed up with politics as usual. And Texans in deep red parts of the state tell me that while they can’t imagine voting blue, they are interested in the Forward Party. There’s a reason the party’s color is purple: Red and blue combined symbolize citizens working together to reform our democracy and the principles by which we elect our leaders and drive solutions.

Trying to establish a third party can be very difficult. But it’s worth the effort. Partisan bickering is tearing our country apart, and convincing people that they have to choose one team or the other. We need to work together in this energy transition, instead of fighting each other. I believe in America. We can set aside our differences enough to create a new era. I know we can come together, and move forward.

Katie Mehnert is founder and CEO of ALLY Energy. She is an ambassador to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Equity in Energy initiative, and a member of the National Petroleum Council.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.