7 Republicans Who Really Get Climate Change

Sketch of a red, white, and blue elephant in profile


As a party, elected Republicans aren't known for being proactive in protecting the environment -- industrial and business concerns too often trump green concerns. Slightly more than one out of 10 Republicans in Congress believe global warming is happening and is a man-made problem. Far less than that are willing to stick their necks out with a green vote.

But there are a handful of Republicans who seem to understand that global warming is a real problem that deserves at least some attention. Or at the very least, Republicans who are willing to lean green to suit their political ambitions. Either way, we'll take their vote. Here are seven Republicans who seem to really get climate change.

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California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger speakeing at an event

 Lon R. Fong / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

At one point, California Gov. Arnold Schwazenegger was floated as a potential candidate to be President Obama's climate czar. Of all the green Republicans, Schwazenegger might just be the greenest. Recently he burnished his eco-bona fides when he was attacked by right-wing attention junkie Sarah Palin for pushing for a cap-and-trade system, an attack he brushed off by questioning Palin's motives.

In 2006, Schwazenegger signed major legislation that created a market-based program to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a stated goal of cutting back to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. California is the most energy-efficient state in the country, so the guy must be doing something right when it comes to energy.

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Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman

Jon M. Huntsman Jr, 2009

 World Economic Forum / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Now Ambassador to China, Republican Jon Huntsman previously served as governor of Utah and was once called a promising potential presidential candidate for 2012 by John McCain. Huntsman bucked the party line on global warming by first admitting that it exists and then by actually doing something about it — he signed up his state as a member of the Western Climate Initiative, a regional cap-and-trade agreement between seven western states and four Canadian provinces.

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Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe

Olympia Snow and Sec. Navy Dr. Donald C. Winter

U.S. Navy / Chief Journalist Craig P. Strawser / Wikimedia

Almost more than any other senator, Mainer Olympia Snowe is known to work and vote across party lines. Regularly labeled a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by more conservative Republicans, Snowe enjoys an incredibly strong base of local support (she won her last election by nearly 40 percentage points) and doesn't have much to worry about when the likes of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck call for her electoral scalp.

Snowe received a 91 percent score from the League of Conservation Votes and in 2006 called on ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the science of climate change. In 2007, she co-sponsed the Global Warming Reduction Act of 2007 with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, a bill that would establish a cap-and-trade program to fund the transition to clean energy technology.

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Maine Sen. Susan Collins

Susan Collins

 Dave Winer / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

There must be something in the water in Maine because the state's other Republican senator, Susan Collins, is also pretty hip to climate change and the environment at large. Collins beat Snowe by 9 percentage points with a perfect 100 percent score by the League of Conservation Voters (who endorsed her last year) and, in 2007, voted for a bill that would require the government to take global warming into account when planning projects. She's voted to preserve Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards, to keep renewable and solar power funding, and to elevate the EPA to a Cabinet-level department.

Collins worked with Sen. Joe Lieberman to introduce the Collins-Lieberman Energy Independence, Clean Air and Climate Security Act which would have set new standards for transportation and energy and reduced emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The League of Conservation Voters had great things to say when they endorsed Collins in 2008 and told Grist, "She has demonstrated great leadership, particularly on global warming. We think that she's going to play a critical role in 2009 in helping us get the 60 votes we're going to need to move something in the Senate."

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New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith

New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith Speaking to Press

 Felipe Dana/AP

New Jersey congressman Chris Smith has represented his state for more than 25 years and has been talking about global warming for nearly as long, sponsoring his first global warming-focused legislation in the late '80s. He's a member of the exclusive club of Republicans who have received the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters and he earned a rating of 77 percent for 2008. This year, Congressman Smith voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act, only one of a handful of Republicans to do so. Perhaps most surprising, he cited the sound science behind climate change as a reason — he's no cherry-picking denier.

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)

 Marc Nozell / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is another green-leaning Republican state leader. He founded and co-chaired the National Governors Association's Securing a Clean Energy Future task force along with former Kansas Gov. (and Democrat) Kathleen Sebelius (now serving the Obama administration as Secretary of Health and Human Services) and he led talks among 45 state leaders to develop programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While Pawlenty isn't afraid to appeal to the base every now and then — he backpedaled on the idea of a cap-and-trade system while on the Glenn Beck program and argued that humans didn't have much of an impact on global warming — it's important to remember that at least he was for it before he was against it.

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Ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin book signing, Fort Bragg, 2009

 Sara D. Davis / Getty Images

Kidding! Sarah Palin is about as far as you can get from a Republican who gets global warming. Sure, one time she said that humans might be the cause of some warming we've seen, but she followed up, nearly in the same breath, with a confused statement that contradicted her previous assertion — you know, typical Sarah Palin. These days, Palin holds court on Facebook and Twitter (no accountability for this camper, dontchaknow) and spends her days selling books, which is way easier than running Alaska.