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Wither cap and trade to address greenhouse effect global warming climate change ?

The Republican Party's fast journey from debating how to combat human-caused climate change to arguing that it does not exist is a story of big political money, Democratic hubris in the Obama years and a partisan chasm that grew over nine years like a crack in the Antarctic shelf, favoring extreme positions and uncompromising rhetoric over cooperation and conciliation.

Until 2010, some Republicans ran ads in House and Senate races showing their support for green energy.

Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Ebell, the Competitive Enterprise Institute fellow who had worked for years to undermine the legitimacy of established climate science, to head the transition team at E.P.A. Mr. Ebell immediately began pushing for an agenda of gutting the Obama climate regulations and withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

When it came time to translate Mr. Trump's campaign promises to coal country into policy, Mr. Murray and others helped choose the perfect candidate: Mr. Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general.

Most public opinion polls find that voters rank the environment last or nearly last among the issues that they vote on. And views are divided based on party affiliation. In 2001, 46 percent of Democrats said they worried "a great deal" about climate change, compared with 29 percent of Republicans, according to a Gallup tracking poll on the issue. This year, concern among Democrats has reached 66 percent. Among Republicans, it has fallen, to 18 percent.

After the House of Representatives passed what is known as cap-and-trade legislation, a concept invented by conservative Reagan-era economists.

The idea was to create a statutory limit, or cap, on the overall amount of a certain type of pollution that could be emitted. Businesses could then buy and sell permits to pollute, choosing whether to invest more in pollution permits, or in cleaner technology that would then save them money and allow them to sell their allotted permits. The administration of the first President George Bush successfully deployed the first national cap-and-trade system in 1990 to lower emissions of the pollutants that cause acid rain. Mr. McCain pushed a cap-and-trade proposal to fight climate change.

Myron Ebell, a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, worked behind the scenes to make sure Republican offices in Congress knew about Mr. Horner's work -- although at the time, many viewed Mr. Ebell skeptically, as an extremist pushing out-of-touch views.

In 2009, hackers broke into a climate research program at the University of East Anglia in England, then released the emails that conservatives said raised doubts about the validity of the research. In one email, a scientist talked of using a statistical "trick" in a chart illustrating a recent sharp warming trend. The research was ultimately validated, but damage was done.

As Congress moved toward actually passing climate change legislation, a fringe issue had become a part of the political mainstream.

"That was the turning point," Mr. Horner said.

The House passed the cap-and-trade bill by seven votes, but it went nowhere in the Senate -- Mr. Obama's first major legislative defeat.

Unshackled by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and other related rulings, which ended corporate campaign finance restrictions, Koch Industries and Americans for Prosperity started an all-fronts campaign with television advertising, social media and cross-country events aimed at electing lawmakers who would ensure that the fossil fuel industry would not have to worry about new pollution regulations.

Outside of Congress, a small number of establishment conservatives, including a handful of leaders from the Reagan administration, have begun pushing Washington to act on climate change. Earlier this year, James A. Baker III, one of the Republican Party's more eminent senior figures, met with senior White House officials to urge them to consider incorporating a carbon tax as part of a broader tax overhaul package -- a way to both pay for proposed cuts to corporate tax rates and help save the planet. A Reagan White House senior economist, Art Laffer; a former secretary of state, George P. Shultz; and Henry M. Paulson Jr., George W. Bush's final Treasury secretary, have also pushed the idea.

"There are members from deep-red districts who have approached me about figuring out how to become part of this effort," Mr. Curbelo said. "I know we have the truth on our side. So I'm confident that we'll win -- eventually."


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