Every four years, my home state of Iowa gets the privilege of hosting presidential candidate wannabes. By virtue of our first-in-the-nation caucus, our votes carry extra weight as our early outcome helps propel (or sink) these bids for the White House.

In preparation for the 2016 election — my first as a voter — and working with the grassroots organization republicEn.org, I spent 2015 following the Republican candidates from state fairs to conventions to town halls to ask a question critical to my generation: Do you think free enterprise can solve climate change?

While I didn’t always like the answer, and sometimes candidates refused to answer the question (remember me, Sen. Rand Paul?), most of the candidates were eager to share their views with me, which ranged from “climate change is bogus” (Sen. Ted Cruz) to a pitch for disruptive technologies and free markets (Gov. Jeb Bush).

I never got close enough to the eventual winner to ask him this question, but through his actions as Commander in Chief more so than his often conflicting words, he’s made his climate change views known. He should consider rethinking his ardent denial.

Too many leaders of the Republican Party feign they don’t know enough to act decisively (“I’m not a scientist, but — “) or in the case of President Trump, “global warming as a hoax.” These holders of gavels and seats of power are not only denying an opportunity to lead the U.S. in tackling this issue of a generation, they also are sinking the Republican Party in the process.

You don’t have to be a scientist to accept the science of climate change, and you certainly don’t need to understand every data point to know we need to act. As one-time presidential candidate and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham likes to say: “I’m not a scientist, and I’ve got the grades to prove it. But I’ve talked to the climatologists of the world, and 90 percent of them are telling me that the greenhouse gas effect is real. That we’re heating up the planet. I just want a solution that would be good for the economy that doesn’t destroy it.”

Kelsi Wolever

Kelsi Wolever (Photo: Special to the Register)

My generation, the largest voting bloc in history, is tired of the lame “it’s not happening” excuse and the almost lamer “the climate has been changing, we just don’t know how much is caused by human activity.” A problem exists; we want to see leaders at all levels of government take action. As long as Republicans refuse to put forward a set of climate solutions, they will drive more and more young and first-time voters — even those of us who otherwise lean to the right — to the other party. No one wants to be on the wrong side of history, but in particular, the rising leadership generation isn’t going to wait to take the reins of power before we exert our power.

We will begin by acting in the voting booth.

While 2020 seems far off, it won’t be long before candidates of all calibers start tiptoeing into the Hawkeye State, eating fried Oreos and hanging out in our diners, trying to connect with everyday people. If these Republican candidates want to woo new voters, they need to come to the diner with an answer to the climate question that acknowledges the problem and proposes policy solutions.

KELSI WOLEVER is a recent graduate from Iowa State University and lifelong Iowan. She led the Dare2Ask climate change campaign for republicEn.org in 2015 and 2016.