Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge may be the last remaining moderate conservative Republican. He reminded us of that last week when he challenged members of his own party to return to their roots as champions of the environment.

Speaking at the Conservative Energy Forum, the former governor and first Homeland Security chief, said the GOP has abandoned the environment. Noting it was Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt — who protected public lands — and Richard Nixon — who signed the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act — that led the charge generations ago, Ridge said we must be better.

Yet many in his party have taken the opposite approach. While Ridge says humans are not the “sole cause” of climate change, he says humans are contributing to the change. He has little time for those who ignore or disregard the human impact on the environment. “How anyone can conclude that is anything but disruptive to nature is beyond belief,” Ridge said.

While Ridge is an elder statesman in the party, his thoughts align closer with young Republicans than his peers. According to Pew Research study released last month, “Millennial and Gen Z Republicans are less inclined than older generations in the GOP to support increased use of fossil fuel energy such as offshore drilling, coal mining and hydraulic fracturing. Fifty-four percent of millennial and Gen Z Republicans support increased use of offshore drilling, compared with 76 percent of Republicans in the baby boomer and older generations.”

When it comes to green and renewable energy sources, 78 percent of the millennial and Gen Z adults say the U.S. should be expanding solar and wind power operations, 25 percent more than older generations.

Clearly, this will be a generational battle moving forward. It should not be lost on anyone that teen climate activist Greta Thunberg was named TIME’s Person of the Year this week. Her passionate plea has sparked millions to take up the cause, to fight for the future of the planet they will inherit. They are taking the lead now, they aren’t waiting for current leaders to pass the buck a decade from now.

All Americans, not just Republicans, would be wise to listen to Ridge and Thunberg. Ridge is spot on when he says the U.S. has a “moral and political obligation to act to combat” climate change.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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