A group of 17 House Republicans introduced a resolution on Wednesday that calls for the House to commit to working on climate change solutions that keep in mind the health of the economy.
The resolution makes the argument that it is a conservative principle to "protect, conserve and be good stewards of the environment, responsibility plan for all market factors, and base our policy decisions in science and quantifiable fact."
Though it stops short of recognizing the connection between emissions from fossil fuels and climate change, it is a departure from the outright climate denial promoted by many Republican congressmen and Trump administration appointees.
Former Rep. Bob Inglis, a Republican from South Carolina, who has embraced the science of climate change and who advocated for a carbon tax while in office, called the resolution "really exciting." In particular, he found the involvement of Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) to be a promising sign.
"Mark is a true fiscal conservative who understands markets and is unassailably conservative," Inglis said. Having Sanford as a part of the effort—which is led by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Ryan Costello (Penn.)—is an important stamp of approval, Inglis said.
Inglis said the resolution does a good job of framing the threat of climate change as an opportunity for "American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism"—something that could allow those who previously denied climate change to come into the fold.
"If you tell me the apocalypse is upon me I will shrink in science denial because it's a pretty good coping mechanism," Inglis said. "But if you start the conversation with, 'There are ways to be ingenious here and ways that Americans can lead,' now I'm feeling efficacious. Engagement is now my coping mechanism."
That the resolution doesn't acknowledge fossil fuel emissions as the driver of climate change did not come as a surprise to Inglis.
"These leaders are trying to shape public opinion and lead public opinion, and that is best done gently," Inglis said. "We don't think many people are going to have the ability to do a 180 on this."
The move garnered applause from various environmental groups.
"It is good to see more Republican Members of Congress acknowledging the science of climate change," Alex Taurel, the deputy legislative director of the League of Conservation Voters said in a press release.
"I'm heartened to see Republican House members introduce a resolution committing Congress to address climate change and base its policy decisions on science and quantifiable facts," Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a press release.
"If Congress followed the science it would, of course, see that fossil fuel emissions are driving climate change," Kimmel said in his statement. "While the resolution doesn't explicitly make this link, it shows that these Republican lawmakers are not in a state of denial about this key issue."
Curbelo has led the effort to bring Republicans into the climate conversation. He co-founded the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in 2016, a House group that aims to address the impacts, causes and challenges of climate change. The membership is deliberately kept evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Currently, there are 15 members from each party.