ACC President Benji Backer Testifies Before Congress

Positive, powerful, and effective: these words describe ACC President Benji Backer’s testimony before Congress yesterday. Backer promoted a unifying, sensible message and demonstrated to members of Congress and those all around the world tuning in that conservatives are eager to address climate change.


A substantial majority of Americans agree that climate change is a serious problem, but conversations on this issue are often divisive and dominated by the fringe voices on both sides. Whether its doomsday rhetoric or climate change denial, neither of these approaches accomplish much of anything.


Once Republicans and Democrats look past the politics of climate change and tune out the extremes, it’s easy to find room for common ground. As Backer pointed out in yesterday’s hearing, “fighting climate is an opportunity to improve human health, lift people up, and grow the economy.” Framing climate change as an opportunity as opposed to an insurmountable crisis will go a long way in bringing more into the conversation and generating meaningful change.


This opportunity that arises from climate change takes form in American leadership and innovation. Arguably the most powerful moment from Backer’s testimony came when he noted that “America has led on lots of initiatives in the past. You have people in Hong Kong waving our flags and singing the American national anthem right now because we inspire them. We can do the same thing on climate change.”


The United States once again has an opportunity to be that shining city upon a hill, and this time it will come with leadership on climate change. In many ways, America is already leading the way on this issue, as House Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Rep. Kinzinger (R-IL) pointed out that since 2005, the U.S. has reduced its emissions by more than the next twelve highest emissions-reducing countries combined.  


For the rest of the world to see similar emissions reductions, the United States must unleash the power of free markets to drive innovation at home. Technologies such as carbon capture and advanced nuclear will play a crucial role in fighting climate change, and American markets can accelerate their development.

As Backer mentioned in his testimony, “it’s easier to export innovative American technologies than burdensome regulations to developing countries.” Rather than creating a false choice between environmental sustainability and economic success, an innovation-driven approach addresses climate change on a global scale without putting the American economy at a significant disadvantage.


A few years ago, conservative involvement in climate change discussions was rare, if not unheard of. Yesterday, the 21-year-old president of an environmental organization led by young conservatives testified before Congress about climate change, which speaks to just how far we’ve come. Benji Backer’s testimony signaled that the narrative has changed when it comes to conservatives and the environment, but this is just the beginning.  

Ronnie Thompson