Billionaire Tom Steyer Wants Republicans Talking Climate Too

  • He wants presidential candidates to see it's easy being green
  • Vows to continue making political contributions in 2016 races

The declining costs of renewable energy should provide an opening for Republican presidential candidates to address climate change on the campaign trail, billionaire hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer said.

Steyer, who poured $74 million into 2014 congressional and gubernatorial races and was one of the biggest single political donors last year, told reporters on Thursday he is planning on reprising his political spending to make climate change a top-tier issue in the November 2016 elections.

While Steyer declined to detail his spending plans or endorse a presidential candidate, he said his mission is to get both Republicans and Democrats outlining their approach to energy and climate.

"We don’t believe we will have succeeded unless Republican candidates are acknowledging climate change and talking about plans for clean energy," Steyer said. "They may use different language, they may specifically talk about clean energy and they may reference the technology changes and cost reductions so that this becomes a purely economic argument."

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have all described climate change as an urgent problem, with Sanders linking the phenomenon to rising terrorism.

Republicans making a bid for the White House have largely shied from discussing the extent of climate change or the role of human activity in exacerbating it. But they have focused squarely on the economic implications of the issue and criticized Obama administration rules slashing carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector.

For instance, in the Nov. 10 Republican presidential debate, Senator Rand Paul, from coal-rich Kentucky, stressed that there needs to be balance in “keeping the environment clean” and growing the economy.

Steyer is the former chief executive officer and majority owner of Farallon Capital Management, a San Francisco-based investment adviser he retired from at the end of 2012.